Tribunal orders INEC to allow Atiku, PDP access electoral materials March 6, 2019

Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar may be making some headway in his suit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This is as the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has granted Atiku’s request to be allowed to inspect the electoral materials used by for the conduct of the February 23 poll.

However, the three-man panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki unanimously rejected other prayers by the applicants seeking orders permitting them to, among others, photocopy and scan the electoral documents.

Atiku had rejected the result of the election claiming that the results had being manipulated in favour of the declared winner, President Muhammadu Buhari. Following the announcement of his disapproval of the results, the PDP candidate had filed a legal suit against INEC.

The tribunal has however denied Atiku’s request to be allowed to conduct a forensic examination and forensic analysis of the materials and have access to card reader data and information contained in the cloud and electronic storage used for the poll.

Delivering the lead ruling, Justice Aboki said by virtue of the provision of section 151 of the Electoral Act on which the applicants’ motion ex parte was anchored, they were only entitled to inspection of the electoral materials and the certified true copies of all the materials used for the poll.

PDP and Atiku had in their petition asked the tribunal to order INEC to surrender all the materials that were used for the February 23 presidential election for inspection.

The petitioners in an ex-parte motion dated March 4 and marked CA/A/P/EPT/1/2019, prayed for leave of the tribunal to allow them inspect the Voters Register, the Smart Card Reader Machines, Ballot Papers and other vital documents used in the conduct of the presidential election.

Equally, they asked that INEC be compelled by the Tribunal to allow their agents scan and make photocopies of vital documents used in the conduct of the election, for the purpose of establishing alleged irregularities.

According to their counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), the reliefs which the petitioners’ sought against INEC was for the purpose of filing an election petition they intend to level against the outcome of the 2019 presidential election.

The applicants’ legal team was led by Mr. Livy Ozoukwu (SAN), but Chief Chris Uche (SAN), made submissions on behalf of the team.

As expected in an ex parte hearing, the respondents – President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress and the Independent National Electoral Commission – were absent and not represented by their lawyers.

During the proceedings, members of the panel expressed reservations‎ about whether the tribunal could grant some prayers contained in the application for orders allowing them to scan and photocopy electoral materials as well as allow them to conduct forensic examination and forensic audit of the materials.

Responding, Uche insisted that there were authorities of the Court of Appeal ‎which had interpreted section 155 of the Electoral Act to mean that petitioners could be granted all the prayers sought in the ex parte application.

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