The presidential candidates of the Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Messrs Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar are set to present witnesses to prove their cases against the conduct and outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
Similarly, the president-elect and his deputy, Messrs Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are also ready with their witnesses.
Obi and Atiku will call 150 witnesses to prove their cases while Tinubu, Shettima, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and INEC will present 39, 21, 25 and two witnesses, respectively.
Altogether, the plaintiffs and respondents will present 237 witnesses.
Respondents in the suit are Tinubu, INEC and the APC. Obi and Atiku are challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the presidential election.
The number of witnesses was disclosed yesterday during the resumed pre-hearing of the petition at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), Abuja.
At the hearing, counsel for Obi and the LP, Prof Awa Kalu said: “We have 50 witnesses. We have also agreed that our star witnesses will need 30 minutes to testify excluding demonstration of any electronic evidence,” Mr Kalu said.
He further explained that “star witnesses will be cross-examined for 20 minutes, while 10 minutes will be for other witnesses and 10 minutes for each of the respondents to cross-examine the witnesses.”
However, he said the 30 minutes should exclude the time that would be used to demonstrate video evidence or any other electronic evidence.
“For this class of witnesses, they will be cross-examined for 30 minutes by each respondent and re-examination will be for five minutes.
“In respect of other witnesses, we suggest 10 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 10 minutes for cross-examination by each respondent and five minutes for re-examination.
“For the respondents, we suggest 20 minutes for the evidence-in-chief of their star witnesses, 30 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.
“For their other witnesses, we suggest 20 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.”
He also suggested that where a respondent called a witness and other respondents wanted to cross-examine such a witness, they would have to do so first before the petitioners would take their turn.
For his part, counsel for Atiku and the PDP, Mr. Chris Uche, informed the court that parties had agreed to bring no fewer than 100 witnesses, time to be allotted for examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination.
He added that the agreement reached was however subject to ratification by the court.
For star witnesses, Uche said parties proposed 30 minutes for evidence-in-chief: 15 minutes for cross-examination by respondents, and five minutes for re-examination.
For the other witnesses, Uche said 10 minutes was allotted for examination-in-chief; 10 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.
He also said for respondents, 30 minutes was allocated for star witnesses’ evidence-in-chief, 30 minutes for cross-examination while five minutes was allocated for re-examination.
He suggested also that there should not be any cross-examination by other respondents of any respondent’s witness.
He further told the court that parties were mindful of time constraints in accordance with the new amendment.
Counsel for INEC, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, said his client planned to call five witnesses to defend the election.
He told the court that his team would require seven days to argue the case of their client.
He said the commission was proposing 30 minutes for its star witness to give the evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.
“For the regular witnesses, we propose 10 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination,” Mahmoud stated.
He opposed the suggestion by the petitioners that a separate time be given to their expert witnesses for demonstration.
Counsel for Tinubu and his vice, Mr. Roland Otaru, said he would call 21 witnesses, excluding expert witnesses, to defend his clients.
He requested that all expert reports be front-loaded to the respondents within 48 hours.
On timing, he suggested that 20 minutes be allotted to the expert witnesses for their evidence-in-chief, 30 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.
“For regular witnesses, we suggest 10 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination,” he said.
Otaru prayed the court to make an order that the schedule of documents to be tendered should be exchanged between the parties before the hearing.
For his part, counsel for the APC, Mr. Adeniyi Akintola, said his client needed only nine days to call its seven witnesses, excluding subpoenaed witnesses.
After listening to all the submissions, chairman of the PEPC, Justice Haruna Tsammani urged the lawyers to meet and reach an agreement on the issue of consolidating the petition and adjourned the matter to Monday (tomorrow) for the continuation of pre-hearing.