INEC, PDP Bicker over Compliance with A’Court Order

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday disagreed over the implementation of the Court of Appeal order that the electoral body should grant the main opposition party access to materials used during the presidential elections held on February 23, 2019.

While INEC told THISDAY that it had complied, PDP insisted that the commission had not obeyed the order of the appellate court.

INEC had declared President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the presidential election, having polled 15,191,847 votes, while the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came second with 11,262,978 votes.

But, dissatisfied with the outcome, Atiku approached the tribunal claiming he garnered a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari, who, according to him, polled 16,741,430 votes.

He insisted the result from INEC server showed that he defeated Buhari in the presidential election.

However, last week, Atiku’s legal team decried alleged INEC’s refusal to grant them access to the materials, which had been inspected and paid for in the previous week.

A member of the team, Mr. Silas Onu, explained that efforts to meet with INEC’s legal team had become an uphill task, but insisted that they would continue to follow up until the commission complies with the court order.

He warned that they might be forced to file for contempt against the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and other officers of the commission if they do not give a positive response soon.

But responding to THISDAY enquiry yesterday, The Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the petitioner lied that the commission had not complied with the court order.

Oyekanmi, who declined to comment further on the matter since it was before the court, said that the order had been complied with as far as the commission was concerned.

According to him, “The Independent National Electoral Commission has complied with the orders of the Presidential Election Tribunal as far as the petition of the petitioner is concerned. It is, therefore, not true as the petitioner has alleged, that the commission has not complied. And since this is a subject of litigation, I will not comment more on the matter.”

Speaking with THISDAY last night, however, a lawyer in the legal team of Atiku, Chief Ozekhome SAN, insisted that INEC was yet to comply with the order of the Court of Appeal.

According to the senior lawyer, INEC only allowed them to inspect some of the materials requested for as ordered by the Court of Appeal but refused to allow them take possession of the documents inspected.

He also stated that the commission has continued to deny them access to inspect its central server.

Ozekhome said: “That is a lie. As at last week our lawyers were still going there to get the physical retrieval of the documents already paid for in terms of their certification.

“After inspecting the documents, INEC did not allow them to take possession of the documents. They have carried out inspection although not all, they have not allowed them to inspect the central server but they did allow them to inspect some materials.

“But even those materials that they allowed them to inspect, they have not allowed them to take physical possession of the certified version. So, they are, therefore, lying. It is as simple as that.”

Among the materials, which he said had been inspected but yet to be allowed to take possession of their certified version, includes the form EC8D, which are the results collated from the states and form EC40G, which are papers showing cancelled results.

“The central server itself, they have not allowed them access to it. So, how can they say they have cooperated? It is not true. All the ballot papers used, all the things requested for, which the Court of Appeal granted an order for them to inspect and use, they have not allowed them. They have not carried out the Court of Appeal’s order,” Ozekhome insisted.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja had on March 6 ordered INEC to allow Atiku and his party to inspect and obtain Certified True Copy (CTC) of election materials it used in the conduct of the presidential election.

The court in its ruling on an ex parte filed by the former Vice President and the PDP also ordered INEC to make available all documents and electoral materials used for the election for the purpose of the inspection.

In the unanimous ruling delivered by Justice Abdul Aboki, the appellate court held that it is in the interest of justice for Atiku and the PDP to be given access to inspect materials used by INEC in the conduct of the presidential election.

However, request by Atiku and the PDP to carry out forensic audit on materials and polling documents was declined by the court.

Justice Aboki, in the ruling had held that the applicants’ prayers for scanning and forensic analysis of the election materials run contrary to the provision of section 151 of the Electoral Act.

The court also refused to direct INEC to make available all polling documents for forensic analysis as requested by the applicants.