Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, reserved ruling on the application filed by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for access to inspect the server and data of smart card readers used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the February 23 presidential election.
The presiding justice of the five-man panel, Justice Mohammed Garba, reserved date for ruling in the application shortly after the counsel in the matter adopted and argued their brief of arguments in the suit.
Garba said the panel would communicate the date of the ruling to the parties’ lead counsel once they are ready.
In moving the motion for inspection of the INEC server and other electoral materials, one of the lead counsel to Atiku and the PDP, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), said the request is essential to their petition challenging the return of President Muhammadu Buhari at the election.
The petitioners had in their petition stated that by the figures obtained from INEC’s server, they and not Buhari and the third respondent, All Progressives Congress (APC), won the presidential election held on February, 23 this year.
According to the figures allegedly obtained from the server, Atiku said he scored 18,356,732 votes as against that of Buhari, whom he said polled 16,741,430.
Uche told the tribunal that the inspection of the server and data is necessary in the interest of justice, transparency and neutrality on the part of the first respondent, INEC.
Responding, the lawyer to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), vehemently opposed the application for inspection on the grounds that the Court of Appeal had on March 6 refused the prayers of the petitioners to inspect INEC server and smart card readers.
He maintained that the court having refused the prayers lacked jurisdiction to revisit the same application.
Usman therefore urged the tribunal to dismiss the application, adding that: “We do not have server.”
The lead counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and that of the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), also made similar argument in opposing the application for inspection.
Olanipekun told the tribunal that it lacks jurisdiction to overule itself, while Fagbemi urged the tribunal to be wary of making an order which it is not capable of enforcing, because INEC has said it has no server.
Consequently, Justice Garba announced that the ruling in the application is reserved to a date to be communicated to parties and adjourned the pre-hearing of Atiku and PDP’s petition till June 24.
Earlier, the tribunal heard the motions filed by INEC, President Buhari and APC urging it to dismiss the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Oworu, for being incompetent and abuse of court processes.
Olanipekun, in his argument, said that there was no petition filed by the party before the tribunal because what was served on the respondents is a petition against referendum which the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain.
The tribunal however reserved ruling to a date to be communicated to parties in the suit and adjourned the pre-hearing of the HDP’s petition till June 23.
Atiku, who is the presidential candidate of the PDP in the February 23 presidential election and his party are among the three other political parties and their presidential candidates currently seeking the nullification of President Buhari’s victory at the presidential poll.
The forth petitioner, Geff Ojinaka and his party, Coalition for Change (C4C), had without reason on June 10, applied to withdraw their petition against the election of Buhari.
The application, which was not objected to by the respondents in the suit, was accordingly dismissed, leaving that of the PDP, Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and the Peoples Democratic Movement and that of their candidates.