The legal team of the presidential candidate of the Labour party, Peter Obi, has vowed to take legal action against the Independent National Electoral Commission over “deliberate” refusal to allow its client to inspect presidential election materials in line with the orders of the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal had issued an order allowing Obi, the LP as well as the Peoples Democratic Party to inspect materials used for the February 25 presidential election which INEC declared was won by Bola Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress.
INEC, on March 6, filed a motion on notice praying the court to vary the orders to enable the commission to reconfigure accreditation machines used for the election to enable their use for the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections.
The appellate court, in its discretion, allowed INEC to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, but dismissed its application, saying that its earlier orders granting Obi access to electoral materials stands.
INEC, in apparent reaction to the ruling, stated, “we wish to reiterate that the Commission is not against litigants inspecting election materials. Consequently, it will continue to grant all litigants access to the materials they require to pursue their cases in court.”
But a member of Obi’s legal team, Alex Ejesieme SAN, told THE WHISTLER in a phone interview on Saturday that the electoral umpire has not granted them access to election materials.
“Well, we have written to them (INEC),we have done everything possible and they have refused to allow us to inspect. So, we are going to review our positions this weekend and by Monday, we will know the next thing to do,” the lawyer said.
He accused INEC of deliberately trying to delay Obi’s legal team from instituting a petition against the presidential election as prescribed by the Electoral Act, adding that the electoral umpire knows that accessing the election materials will expose alleged ballot rigging in the election.
“Yes. You know, what they are doing is deliberate. Ordinarily, the proper thing for us to do is to commence committal proceedings against the INEC chairman and the officers involved but remember, by the Electoral Act 2022, we are supposed to file a petition.
So, what they are trying to do is to divert attention,” Ejesieme said, adding, “We will take steps to mount pressure on them to allow us to have copies of the electoral materials in line with the order of the court of Appeal.”
THE WHISTLER reports that while collation of presidential results were ongoing on February 26, the Labour party, PDP and the Action Democratic Congress had boycotted the event and called for cancellation of the election.
International observers from the European Union also accused INEC of “lack of transparency” due to its failure to immediately transmit results electronically from polling units to its public result viewing portal.
Regarding access to election documents, THE WHISTLER reports that Section 74 of the Electoral Act 2022, reads as follows, “74 (1) The Resident Electoral Commissioner in a state where an election is conducted shall, within 14 days after an application is made to him by any of the parties to an election petition, cause a certified true copy of such document to be issued to the said party.
“(2) Any Resident Electoral Commissioner who willfully fails to comply with the provisions in subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N2,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.”
Source: THE WHISTLER