Atiku, PDP seek tribunal’s permission to inspect INEC’s server

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) yesterday fixed tomorrow for hearing of an application by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last presidential election, Atiku Abubakar for permission to inspect the server with which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allegedly transmit the election results electronically.

In their petition before the tribunal, the PDP and Atiku are claiming that they won the February 23 presidential election as per the results fed into INEC’s server, a claim the electoral umpire has consistently faulted.

Tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba, said the PEPT will also, tomorrow, hear the petitioners’ other application for extension of time to regularise one of their processes.

At yesterday sitting, the tribunal heard about 11 applications filed by the respondents; four by the 1st respondent (INEC), three by the second respondent (President Muhammadu Buhari) and three by the third respondent – the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The first INEC’s application moved by its lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), was that seeking the dismissal of the petition for being defective, the petitioners have failed to include the Vice President, Yemi Osinbjo as a party.

Usman argued that since the ticket is a joint one, with Osinbajo not immune to whatever the outcome of the petitions would be, it was wrong for the petitioners not to have included him as a party.

The second application prayed the court to strike out some portions of the petition for being defective.

Usman also moved the third application filed on April 24, in which he prayed the tribunal to among others, strike out the petitioners’ reply to INEC’s reply to the petition.

He, however, withdrew the fourth one, which he said was filed in error.

Lawyer to the petitioners, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), adopted the counter affidavits and other processes he filed in opposition to the three applications by INEC.

Uzoukwu prayed the court to dismiss the applications for being incompetent.

Lawyer to the 2nd respondent, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), moved there applications he filed for his client, and prayed the court to grant his prayers.

The first application moved by Olanipekun was the one in which the 2nd respondent prayed the court for leave to amend his response to the petition by including the lawyer’s address for service.

The second application is praying the tribunal to among others, strike out or dismiss the entire petition for being incurably defective and vesting no jurisdiction on the court.

In the alternative, the application seeks the striking out of some itemised paragraphs of the petition.

The third petition moved by Olanipekun prayed the tribunal to strike out 18 paragraphs of the petitioners’ reply to the 2nd respondent’s reply.

Uzoukwu identified and moved the processes he filed against the applications earlier argued by Olanipekun and urged the tribunal to reject them.

Lawyer to the 3rd respondent (APC), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) also moved three applications.

Fagbemi withdrew the first one filed on May 14, in which he sought the striking out of some paragraphs of the petition, following which the tribunal struck it out.

Moving the second application filed on May 15, Fagbemi noted that the petitioners did not file any counter-affidavit against the application. He urged the tribunal to hold that his application was not opposed.

Responding, Uzoukwu said his client chose to file a preliminary objection to query the competence of the application, which he argued, was similar to the one Fagbemi withdrew.

Ruling, Justice Garba noted that the 3rd respondent’s application filed on May 15 was served on the petitioners, to which they filed a preliminary objection on May 20.

The tribunal chairman said it was the choice of the petitioners not to also file a counter to the application, and noted that the time for them to do so has passed.

He pointed out that, while his application was filed on May 15 but that the counter-affidavit filed by the petitioners is dated April 24, 2019.

“There is no application with that date that we filed. We assumed that there is no counter affidavit to our application”, he said.

But, shortly after, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), who took over when Fagbemi stepped out briefly, noted that the same error in date, which Uzoukwu alter with the permission of the tribunal, was also repeated in the body of the application.

At that point, Justice Garba said what the tribunal allowed Uzoukwu to amend as the heading of his counter-affidavit, and nothing more.

Justice Garba said rulings would be delivered in all the applications heard at dates to be communicated to lawyers in the case.

He adjourned the petitioners’ applications for the hearing till tomorrow.

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