The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted that it had no electronic server where elections results were being uploaded for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and its presidential candidate in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to access and inspect.
The PDP and its candidate, Atiku, are challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election, claiming that the results they obtained from the INEC server indicated that Atiku won the poll with an over six million vote’s margin.
But INEC, Buhari and the APC who are the respondents to the petition and to the petitioners’ application for access to the server used for the election, on Thursday, asked the Justice Mohammed Garba-led panel to dismiss the petitioners’ request.
The three respondents, through their respective counsels, reminded the tribunal that the Court of Appeal had, on May 6, 2019 (before the petition was filed on May 18), dismissed a similar application filed by the petitioners.
Represented at the Thursday’s proceedings by its lead counsel, Mr. Yunus Usman (SAN), INEC said the application by the petitioners amounted to asking the commission to produce what it did not have.
Urging the tribunal to dismiss the application, Usman said, “We attached as Exhibit 1, the enrolled order of this honourable court made on May 6, 2019 refusing all the prayers of the petitioners in this application.
“They said we should bring what we don’t have.”
It said Buhari polled 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, who polled 11,262,978 votes.
But Atiku and the PDP, in their petition filed on March 18 challenging the outcome of the poll, contended that “from the data” obtained from INEC’s server, “the true, actual and correct results” showed that they polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari whom they said scored 16,741,430 votes.
By calculation, Atiku and PDP claimed to have defeated Buhari by 1,615,302 votes.
The petitioners, through their lead counsel, Dr. Livy Ozoukwu, subsequently filed an application on May 8, 2019, seeking an order of the tribunal permitting them to access and inspect the INEC’s server into which results and other data were allegedly transmitted during the February 23 poll.
A senior member of the petitioners’ legal team, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), moved the application on Thursday.
Uche urged the tribunal to grant the application in the interest of justice, transparency and neutrality, saying it was necessary for his team to be able to maintain the petition.
He said, “The application in summary asks for access to and inspection of the server of the INEC and the smart card readers used in the conduct of the presidential election.
“We have addressed the issues in our counter-affidavit, written address and reply on points of law and we urge your lordships that the application be granted as prayed in the interest of justice, transparency and neutrality.
“The application is necessary for the maintenance of this petition.”
Reacting first, INEC’s lead counsel, Usman, referred the tribunal to his client’s counter-affidavit filed on May 23 in opposition to the application.
He added that the Court of Appeal having earlier refused similar application, same should not be granted again.
The leader of Buhari’s legal team, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), also urged the tribunal to dismiss the application.