Appeal Court Orders INEC to Release Election Materials to Atiku, PDP

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been directed make all certified copies of the materials used in conducting the 2019 presidential election available to PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and his party.

The Court of Appeal, which gave the order Wednesday, however, refused the applicants’ prayers for scanning and forensic analysis of the election materials.

The order to let Atiku have access to the materials, according to the court, is in pursuant to section 151(1 &2) of the Electoral Act as amended in 2010 which states that:

(1) An order for an inspection of a polling document or an inspection documents of a document or any other packet in the custody of the Chief National Electoral Commissioner or any other officer of the Commission may be made by the election tribunal or the court if it is satisfied that the inspection is required for the purpose of instituting, maintaining or defending an election petition.

(2) A document other than a document referred to in subsection (I) of this section relating to an election and which is retained by the Chief National Electoral Commissioner or any other officer of the Commission in accordance with this section shall be open for inspection on an order made by the Election Tribunal or a Court in exercise of its powers to compel the production of documents in legal proceedings, but shall not otherwise be open for inspection.

The three-member panel led Abdul Aboki also ordered INEC to make available to Atiku and the PDP all documents and electoral materials used for the election for the purpose of the inspection.

Delivering a unanimous ruling on the exparte motion filed by Atiku and the PDP, Mr Aboki, refused to direct INEC to make available all polling documents for forensic analysis as requested by the applicants.

The court, in addition, refused to order the electoral body to permit forensic experts of the applicants to examine form EC48 and other relevant forms used for the election.

Mr Aboki noted that the applicant’s lawyer, Chris Uche, had rightly based his argument on a previous decision of the Election Petition Tribunal, but observed that the decision which permits applicants to inspect and to scan for forensic analysis has been overruled by “this court because it confers unfair advantage to the applicant.”

Atiku and the PDP are challenging INEC’s declaration of APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari’s winner of the presidential election held nationwide on February 23, 2019.

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