Court grants Nigeria opposition right to inspect presidential election documents

Atiku Abubakar is challenging the outcome of the presidential election in court after alleging that it was full of irregularities
Electoral commission officers count votes at Shagari Health Unit polling station in Yola, Adamawa State on February 23, 2019 after the polls were closed during the day of the General elections. – Nigeria began counting votes in presidential elections, even as many people had yet to even cast their ballot because of delays in the opening of polling units and problems with staffing and technology. Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week announced a one-week delay to the election, just hours before it was due to get under way. The presidential contest will see incumbent Muhammadu Buhari (APC) seek to win a second four-year term against former vice president Atiku Abubakar (PDP). (Photo by Luis TATO / AFP) / “The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [byline LUIS TATO] instead of [byline CRISTINA ALDEHUELA]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.”

A special elections court charged with hearing petitions on the recent presidential poll in Nigeria has granted permission to opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party the right to inspect all electoral materials used for the conduct of the February 23 elections.

The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja and chaired by a court judge, Abdul Aboki, on Wednesday after listening to lawyers of the opposition, directed the Independent National Electoral Commission or INEC to make available all such election materials to Mr. Abubakar and his party.

“Prayers 2 to 6 are in summary seeking orders of this honourable court to allow the inspection and production of election documents used by the Independent Electoral Commission for the conduct of the presidential election to enable the applicants to institute and maintain an election petition.” Chris Uche, a lawyer to the opposition candidate and party told the judges.

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Other ex-parte orders or emergency prayers sought by Abubakar included requesting court orders permitting them to make copies and scan of the electoral documents and permission to perform a forensic analysis of all documents including retrieving data from INEC’s smart card readers, cloud storage systems, and all other data relevant to the conduct of the election by the electoral body across Nigeria’s 36 states and federal capital.

But the tribunal unanimously rejected these further requests. Judge Aboki said the opposition were only entitled to inspection of the electoral materials and the certified true copies of all the materials used for the poll, in line with electoral laws.

Abubakar and the PDP had on Tuesday filed the case before the tribunal, which possesses same powers as the Federal High Court system in Nigeria.

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Lawyers for the opposition had told the special court that the temporary reliefs being sought against the electoral commission was for the purpose of filing and maintaining a full election petition which they intend to file against the declared winner and his party within 21 days, in line with Nigeria’s electoral laws.

Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who was declared winner by INEC, his party the All Progressives Congress or their lawyers were not in court as the opposition is only seeking the ex-parte orders before the substantive case begins when the full petition is formally submitted for legal fireworks to commence.

Abubakar, popularly known by his first name Atiku, is challenging the outcome of the presidential election in court after alleging that it was full of irregularities due to conflicting figures that did not match field reports obtained by agents of his party. He said results collated by his agents at different polling units across Nigeria were at variance with that of the electoral commission used to declare Buhari as winner.

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