On Wednesday, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, withdrew a new application they had submitted to force the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to permit their agents to take part in the process of sorting out the ballots used in the February 25 presidential election.
Both PDP and Atiku, who are separately challenging the outcome of the election that was declared in favour of the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu, told the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, that they were no longer interested in the application.
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When the motion ex-parte, marked: CA/PEC/10M/2023, was called up for hearing on Wednesday, Atiku, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN, told the court that he filed a notice of discontinuance.
Atiku, who finished second in the presidential election, decided to withdraw the appeal as a result of a meeting his legal team had on Tuesday with the head of the electoral authority, according to information obtained by Objectv Media.
“We filed the application owing to challenges and administrative bottlenecks we encountered at the INEC office when we went for access to the election materials as ordered by the court.
“However, before the application dated March 13 could be slated for hearing, INEC, on its own, called our legal team for a meeting.
“It was at that meeting which held yesterday (Tuesday) that all the grey areas were sorted out, with INEC, pledging to allow our agents to observe the process of sorting out some of the electoral materials we requested for, especially the ballot papers.
“Since that was primarily our prayer in the fresh application we filed, we felt that it would not be necessary to proceed with the hearing. So, to save judicial time, we filed a notice of discontinuance which was accordingly granted”, a member of Atiku’s legal team, who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.”
Meanwhile, following the withdrawal of the application, Justice Joseph Ikyegh-led three-member panel struck it out.
Atiku had specifically argued in the withdrawn application, which was supported by 11 grounds, that party representatives needed to be present during the organization of the electoral materials he would need to prepare a petition he intended to file challenging the results of the presidential election.
He said that in order to comply with the ex-parte order the court issued on March 3, it was necessary for his agents to watch and/or take part in the material sorting he demanded in all of INEC’s regional and national offices.
In the aforementioned order, the tribunal had instructed INEC to grant the applicants, Atiku and PDP, access to inspect, scan, and conduct forensic examination and analysis of the ballot papers, data forms, BVAS, and/or card readers, including photocopying of the ballots and information stored in the computer server/IREV.
Atiku claimed that allowing his party’s representatives to be there while the materials are sorted would promote transparency and ensure that the ballots would not be tampered with.
It will be recalled that though the court ordered INEC to grant both Atiku and his counterpart in the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi, who came third in the election, access to the electoral materials, however, in a subsequent order it made on March 8, the panel gave the electoral body the nod to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines it used for the presidential election.
The court held that stopping INEC from reconfiguring the BVAS would adversely affect the conduct of Governorship and State Assembly elections billed for Saturday.
It dismissed objections that the LP and its candidate, Obi, raised against INEC’s move to reconfigure all the BVAS devices that were used for the presidential poll.
According to the court, allowing the objections by Obi and his party would amount to “tying the hands of the Respondent, INEC”.
It noted that INEC depositions in an affidavit, that accreditation data contained in the BVAS could not be tampered with or lost, as same would be stored and easily retrieved from its back-end server, was not controverted.
Besides, the court directed INEC to allow the President-elect, Tinubu of the APC, to also inspect and obtain copies of the electoral material, to enable him to prepare his defence against petitions that may be lodged to overturn his election victory.
It held that both Tinubu and his party were entitled to have access to the electoral materials.
INEC had declared Tinubu of the APC as winner of the presidential poll, ahead of 17 other candidates that contested the election.
According to INEC, Tinubu, scored a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat Atiku who polled a total of 6,984,520 votes and Obi of the LP who came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes.
Both PDP and LP had since rejected the outcome of the election and vowed to challenge it in court.
Under the Electoral Act 2022, any candidate dissatisfied with the return made by the INEC, shall within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the result of the election, file a petition before the tribunal.