…rules out request for forensic analysis
The Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to inspect materials used for the February 23 presidential election.
A three-member panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki granted the order yesterday. Other members of the panel are Justices Emmanuel Akomaye Agim and Peter Ige.
Atiku and the PDP had through their lawyers, Levi Uzoukwu (SAN) and Chief Chris Uche (SAN), urged the tribunal to grant six reliefs to enable them institute and maintain their petition against the outcome of the presidential election.
They requested the panel to compel INEC to produce the Voters Register, the Smart Card Reader Machines, Ballot Papers and other sensitive materials used in the election for inspection and scanning.
The ex parte motion was supported with a 12-paragraphed affidavit deposed to by the Director of Contact and Mobilisation of Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Council, retired Col. Austin Akobundu.
But the tribunal, which is sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, rejected the request by Atiku and the PDP to be allowed to conduct forensic audit of the materials.
It stated that by the provisions of Section 151 (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act, INEC is only expected to allow the applicants access to inspect documents, adding that the result of forensic analysis was not admissible as evidence in court.
The panel added that the purport of sections 151 (1)(2) of the Electoral Act is at the stage of pre-hearing, and that the applicant can only be allowed to inspect and certify documents to protect the integrity of the materials.
It added that the applicants should base the substance of their petition on official materials only obtained from the electoral body.
Daily Trust reports that President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared winner of the February 23 election with a total of 15,191,847 votes. Atiku, who came second with 11,262,978 votes rejected the results and vowed to challenge them in court.
The APC had since signified its readiness to meet the PDP presidential candidate and his party in court.
The Director of Strategic Communications of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo (SAN), who disclosed this in a statement earlier in the week, said Atiku Abubakar has a constitutional right to seek redress in court.
“In fact, it is the resort to court that is the only democratic way to ventilate his perceived grievance and any attempt to restrict or discourage the exercise of such right would be an invitation to anarchy.
“In addition, we are very anxious to meet Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in court in order to show the world in a conclusive manner the free and fair nature of the comprehensive defeat of Atiku at the polls.
“An election is not termed ‘rigged’ only by the mere claim of it by the loser. That is what Atiku and the PDP want to ram down our throats. Unfortunately for them, international, continental and sub-regional observers (who can be seen as neutral by all standards) all declared the election to be free, fair and credible. No ego-massaging narrative can change that,” Keyamo said.
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