Tribunal okays PDP’s request to inspect electoral materials, rejects plea for forensic analysis

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The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has on Wednesday granted the request by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to inspect the electoral materials used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the February 23 polls.

However, the panel, comprising Justice Abdul Aboki,  Justices Peter Ige and Emmanuel Agim, refused the applicants’ prayers to photocopy and scan the electoral documents.

It would also not allow them to conduct forensic examination and forensic analysis of the materials and have access to card reader data and information contained in the smart card reader, cloud and electronic storage used for the polls.

In his ruling, the panel leader, Justice Aboki said by virtue of the provisions of section 151 of the Electoral Act on which the applicants’ motion ex parte was anchored, Atiku and his party were only entitled to inspect the electoral materials and the certified true copies of all the materials used for the polls.

He said, “After careful consideration of the application, a perusal of section 151 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the decisions of this court in Aregbesola Vs Oyinlola 2009, Akintayo Vs Jolaoye and Hope Uzodinma Vs Osita Izunaso, it is hereby ordered:

“Leave is granted to the applicants to bring this application.

“The first respondent (INEC) shall allow the applicants to inspect the polling documents and be given the certified true copies of the polling documents used for the conduct of the presidential election across the country to enable them to institute and maintain their election petition.

“Prayers 4, 5, and 6 are hereby rejected.”

The tribunal insisted that the plaintiffs could only be allowed to inspect the materials “at this stage.”

Justice Aboki’s position was that the rejection of the prayers seeking permission to scan and photocopy the materials, and have access to card reader information, data in the cloud and electronic storage, would help “to protect the integrity of the materials in the custody of INEC.”

He added that the requests “cannot be regarded as inspection of polling materials under section 151 of the Electoral Act.”

He made reference to a judgement of the Court of Appeal, in the case of Hope Uzodinma Vs Osita Izunaso, which  set aside such orders when they were made by a lower election petitions tribunal on the grounds that “they were found to be outside section 151 of the Electoral Act.”

Justice Aboki added, “The orders violated the right of the respondents to fair hearing under section 36 of the Constitution.”

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