THE Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal’s decision to dismiss an application to allow him access to the central server of INEC used in the last presidential poll.
Justice C. C. Nweze, while delivering the ruling of the five-member panel of the apex court said “the appeal has no merit”, and dismissed it.
Atiku, the Presidential candidate of the PDP in the February presidential election appealed the tribunal’s rejection of their request to access the “central server” which they alleged housed the results of the poll electronically transmitted by the Independent National Electoral Commission during the exercise.
He had approached the apex court to set aside the June 24, decision of the tribunal, and also grant all their prayers contained in the motion on notice.
Atiku’s counsel, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, had pleaded with the court to set aside the decision of the presidential election petition tribunal which refused to compel INEC to allow him access to the central server alleged used in the conduct of the presidential poll.
He said that access to the INEC’s central server is germain to the joint petition of Atiku and PDP and urged the court to grant the request of the appellants by ordering the electoral body to allow access to the database.
However, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel to President Muhammadu Buhari, asked the court to turn down the request and to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the appeal has become academic.
Olanipekun drew the attention of the court to the fact that the life of the appeal will expire on Aug. 21 and even if the request is granted it will serve no purpose to the two petitioners since they have long closed their cases.
He further told the court that the parties will on Aug. 21 adopt their final written addresses at the tribunal after which a judgment date will be fixed.
The position of Olanipekun was, however, adopted by counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman, SAN, and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Charles Edosamwam.
Atiku, had in their motion, which was dismissed by the tribunal, claimed that INEC electronically transmitted the results of the disputed poll to the said central server.
INEC had denied the claim, insisting that it never transmitted the results of the polls to any server whatsoever, but that the results were collated and declared manually.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, whose victory at the polls is being challenged by the petitioners at the tribunal, also opposed the petitioners’ request for access to the said INEC’s server.
But the petitioners have insisted in their notice of appeal that INEC electronically transmitted the results to the central server, adding that the tribunal denied them fair hearing by preventing them from accessing the “relevant and material evidence” to which they were entitled to under the provisions of Section 151(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
They alleged that the tribunal’s denial of fair hearing undermined their petition.
According to them, the tribunal, in dismissing their application, failed to consider their uncontroverted evidence contained in their further affidavit in support of their application for access and inspection of information.
They maintained that the tribunal failed to exercise its discretion judiciously and judicially.
They maintained that they supported their further affidavit accompanying the motion at the tribunal with enough documentary proof to the effect that the results were actually transmitted electronically and stored in its (INEC’s) central server with respect to the presidential election conducted on February 23, 2019. (NAN)