The Court of Appeal has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow Atiku Abubakar and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have access to certified copies of all materials used in conducting the 2019 presidential election.
This, according to the court, is in pursuant to section 151(1 &2) of the Electoral Act as amended, which states that:
(1) An order for an inspection of a polling document or an inspection documents of a document or any other packet in the custody of the Chief National Electoral Commissioner or any other officer of the Commission may be made by the election tribunal or the court if it is satisfied that the inspection is required for the purpose of instituting, maintaining or defending an election petition.
(2) A document other than a document referred to in subsection (I) of this section relating to an election and which is retained by the Chief National Electoral Commissioner or any other officer of the Commission in accordance with this section shall be open for inspection on an order made by the Election Tribunal or a Court in exercise of its powers to compel the production of documents in legal proceedings, but shall not otherwise be open for inspection.
The three-member panel led by Abdul Aboki also ordered INEC to make available to Atiku and the PDP all documents and electoral materials used for the election for the purpose of inspection.
Delivering a unanimous ruling on the ex parte motion filed by Atiku and the PDP, Aboki, however, refused the applicants’ prayers for scanning and forensic analysis of the election materials.
The court also refused to direct INEC to make available all polling documents for forensic analysis as requested by the applicants.
The court, in addition, refused to order the electoral body to permit forensic experts of the applicants to examine form EC48 and other relevant forms used for the election.
Aboki noted that the applicant’s lawyer, Chris Uche, had rightly based his argument on a previous decision of Election Petition Tribunal, but observed that the decision which permits applicants to inspect, to scan for forensic analysis has been overruled by “this court because it confers unfair advantage to the applicant.”
The Appeal Court serves as the election petition tribunal for the presidential election.
Atiku and the PDP are challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the February 23 presidential election.
Atiku had earlier explained reasons why he applied for an order to compel INEC to surrender all the materials used for the February 23 presidential election, for inspection.
He said the request was to establish that the exercise was fraught with manifest irregularities, including multiple thumb-printing of ballot papers, saying he intended to engage forensic experts to analyse the election materials.
Consequently, he prayed the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, for leave to be allowed to obtain some of the sensitive materials that INEC deployed for the presidential election.