Tribunal hears Atiku’s motion to access INEC’s server Thursday – Punch Newspapers

0
5


Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal  on Tuesday  fixed   Thursday for the  hearing of the application for access to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s electronic server filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and  its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

But INEC had asked the  tribunal to strike out Atiku and his party’s petition challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory  in  the February 23 presidential election for  their failure to include Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the petition.

Buhari and his party, the  All Progressives Congress,   are the respondents.

The five-man tribunal headed by  Justice Mohammed Garba  also on Tuesday reserved judgment  on the nine applications  they  heard regarding  the petition  filed by Atiku and his party  challenging Buhari’s win.

Justices Abdul Aboki, Joseph Ikyegh, Samuel Oseji  and Peter Ige are other members  of the tribunal.

INEC had declared Buhari  the winner of the  election after  polling 15,191,847 votes. Atiku  polled 11,262,978 votes to place second.

But Atiku and the PDP in their petition on March 18  contended that “from the data” obtained from INEC’s  server, “the true, actual and correct results” showed that they polled 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari, who they said scored 16,741,430 votes.

However, in its reply on April 10 to counter  Atiku and his party’s  petition, INEC urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition, insisting that their  claims were false.

Counsel  for the electoral body, Yunus Usman (SAN),  said they  collated the results of the election manually and never transmitted them electronically.

Usman added that INEC did not  keep any  server where the results of the polls  could have been transmitted electronically and stored as alleged by the petitioners.

But  the petitioners in their application filed on May 8,  maintained that INEC kept “central servers” in which “information was recorded and stored in database packets relating to  the accreditation of voters and transmission of results from the presidential election.”

They sought to be permitted to inspect the said servers and the card readers used for the conduct of the polls, examine and analyse the information obtained from them.

They also prayed for the tribunal’s permission to file a report of their inspection, examination and analysis of the content of the facilities.

The applicants filed 13 grounds to back their application and their claims.

The petitioners  stated, “The 1st respondent, as the body constitutionally and statutorily vested with the responsibility to conduct and manage the presidential election, set up electronic data central servers for the purpose of storage of transmitted accreditation data and results from  the smart card readers deployed for the election in an apparent bid to ensure relative transparency of the process.”

They added,  “The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) itself acknowledges network data by recognition given to the website of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Section 71 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). We also submit that Section 84 of the Evidence Act 2011 recognises computer data and evidence generated  from there.”

Maintaining that INEC deployed the servers during  the  polls,  they said “the results of the elections were electronically transmitted to the 1st respondent’s central server.”

They also said, “It will work tremendous hardship and grave injustice to refuse access to the contents of the central server that will assist the honourable court in the just consideration and determination of the issues involved in this matter or to allow a party suppress or withhold access thereto.”

The application, along with another one filed on May 5, will  be heard by the tribunal on June 13.

Meanwhile,  a total of 11 applications were mentioned but two of them were withdrawn while nine of them were heard and reserved for rulings.

Of the nine applications heard,  seven were filed by the respondents seeking either the striking out or dismissal of the petition or the  replies filed by the petitioners to their replies to the petition.

Usman moved three applications and withdrew one.

The first was the one the commission filed on May 5, 2019, asking the tribunal to “strike out the petition dated March 18, 2019 for the failure of the petitioners to join Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, a co-winner of the election, as a respondent.”

Responding to the application, the petitioners’ lead counsel, Dr Livy Ozoukwu (SAN), described the INEC’s application as “unusual”.

He urged the tribunal to dismiss it “in order to help INEC to maintain its neutrality”.

INEC’s lawyer also moved another application filed on April 25, asking for the striking out of some portions of the petition and eventually the entire petition.

He also moved another one filed on April 24, asking the tribunal to strike out the petitioners’ reply to INEC’s reply to the petition.

The applications were opposed by the petitioners’ lawyer.

Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), moved three applications,  the  first filed on May 14, and sought some amendments  to his reply to the petition.

Olanipekun sought, among others, an order permitting him to reflect on his reply to the petition his service address sought to amend.

He also moved another application filed on May 14 asking the tribunal to strike out or dismiss the petition “for being fundamentally defective vesting no jurisdiction of the court”.

The APC, through its lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), had filed three applications but one of them, which was filed on May 14, was withdrawn by him and was subsequently struck out by the tribunal on Tuesday.

Another application by the party was filed on May 14, seeking  the same prayers as the ones contained in the one withdrawn.

The application sought the striking out or dismissal of the petitioners’ reply to the APC’s reply to the petition.

While moving the application, Fagbemi said the petitioners had captioned their reply to a motion filed on May 24, when the motion they meant to reply to was filed on May 14.

He said they did not only refer to the May 24 motion in the title of their counter-affidavit, but also referred to the same non-existent motion in the paragraph 3 of the counter-affidavit.

This, he argued, implied that there was no reply to his client’s application.

But responding, Ozoukwu said the wrong reference was a clerical error as his client’s counter-affidavit, in context, referred to the May 14 motion.

He sought and obtained the tribunal’s permission to correct the date in the title of the counter-affidavit.

But the tribunal reiterated that the correction was only limited to the title and not extended to any other part of the counter-affidavit.

 Moving another application filed on his behalf of his client on May 15, Fagbemi said the petitioners had filed a preliminary objection in opposition to the application instead  instead of a counter-affidavit as provided under section 47 (4) of the Electoral Act.

This, he said, implied that the motion was unchallenged and should be granted by the tribunal.

But Ozoukwu noted that both the application withdrawn and the one adopted were filed on the same day seeking the same prayers.

He said had responded to one by filing a counter-affidavit and filed a notice of preliminary object against the other one because it constituted an abuse of court process.

He urged the tribunal not to allow Fagbemi to benefit from the situation he created for the petitioners.

The  tribunal held that the petitioners had waived their right to file their counter-affidavit within seven days as prescribed and had failed to file any application for extension of time within which to file it.

Copyright PUNCH.

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]

DOWNLOAD THE PUNCH NEWS APP NOW ON




Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here