Tribunal grants PDP, Atiku leave to inspect Presidential election materials
The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja, Wednesday, granted the request by Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar , to be allowed to inspect the electoral materials used by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the February 23 Presidential election.
The three-man panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki made this ruling on Wednesday in its inaugural sitting.
However, the panel unanimously rejected other prayers by the applicants seeking orders permitting them to, among others, photocopy and scan the electoral documents.
The three-man panel, in a pre-hearing session of the tribunal yesterday, entertained the applicants’ argument for about 45 minutes and rose to deliver ruling.
It promised to return in one hour’s time to deliver its ruling.
The applicants’ counsel led by Chief Chris Uche (SAN), made submissions on behalf of the team.
As expected, in an exparte application, the three respondents, President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress and the Independent National Electora Commision, were not represented by their lawyers.
Uche said during the Wednesday’s hearing that the exparte motion contained six prayers, one of which sought the tribunal’s leave to bring the motion up in the tribunal pre-hearing session.
He added: “Prayers 2 to 6 are in summary seeking orders of this honourable court to allow the inspection and production of election documents used by the Independent Electoral Commission for the conduct of the presidential election to enable the applicants to institute and maintain an election petition.”
However, 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 exparte application
While rising to prepare the tribunal’s ruling, Justice Aboki, requested the applicants’ legal team to submit the said authorities within the one hour period the panel gave to finish writing the ruling.
Atiku and the PDP had on Tuesday filed the exparte motion supported with a 12 paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Colonel Austin Akobundu (retd.), Director of Contact and Mobilization for the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Council., praying for an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow them Inspect the register and other vital documents used in the conduct of the election.
In the exparte motion dated March 4,, Atiku and the PDP applied that the appellate court serving as the presidential election petition tribunal to compel the electoral body to allow their agents to scan and make photocopies of vital documents used in the last presidential election for the purpose of maintaining their petition against the election.
Specifically, the exparte motion indicated that the order requested against INEC is for the purpose of filing and maintaining election petition before the tribunal.
Felix Omohomhion, Abuja