Following alleged refusal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his party access to electoral materials used in the conduct of the election, as ordered by the Court of Appeal, the candidate of the main opposition party has threatened to pursue the imprisonment of the Chairman of the electoral body, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, by filing contempt proceedings against him.
The PDP candidate, who has also accused the electoral umpire of bias and spreading falsehood, is likely to press contempt charge against the electoral body next week, THISDAY learnt Thursday.
Meanwhile, the PDP has said the reaction of the presidency to a video of a media interview granted by a top official of INEC, confirming the existence of a central election results transmission server in the commission, has further shown that President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are jittery over the petition of its candidate at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and spokesman of the Presidential Campaign Council of the APC, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has said that some videos circulating on the social media purportedly showing how the February 23, 2019 presidential election was rigged, are of no effect as the courts would be guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act and INEC’s guidelines.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had on March 6 ordered INEC to allow Atiku and his party to inspect and obtain Certified True Copy (CTC) of election materials it used in the conduct of the presidential election.
The court in its ruling on an exparte filed by the former vice president and the PDP also ordered INEC to make available all documents and electoral materials used for the election for the purpose of the inspection.
However, nearly two months after the order was made, INEC was yet to comply with the Atiku legal team, saying it would have no choice but to seek the committal of Yakubu to prison for alleged disobedience to a valid order of court.
A member of Atiku’s legal team and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, who spoke to THISDAY, alleged that all efforts to implement the order of the Court of Appeal were frustrated by the uncooperative stance of INEC.
He said: “They have refused to cooperate with the Atiku legal team by making accessible to them ballot papers, electoral materials and other devices used during the election, which the Court of Appeal, Abuja ordered them to give to Atiku nearly two months ago.
“They have bluntly refused to do this. Every day we send lawyers there, they would not cooperate.
“If that be the case, they will likely force the Atiku legal team to issue forms 48 and 49 against INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to be imprisoned for contempt of court because that is the only weapon in the hands of a person who had secured the order of a court, which is being violated with impunity just as INEC is currently doing.”
He stated that INEC rather than maintain its expected role of an independent and impartial umpire, has descended into the arena, taking sides by “carrying respondent briefs and sharing issues with petitioners,” saying, “this automatically means it has taken sides with one of the parties.”
The senior lawyer further berated the commission for spreading falsehood by denying the presence of a central server at the commission where results from polling units were transmitted to.
“INEC had before, during and after the election maintained that they have a central server, which results from polling units will be transmitted electronically. It is on U-tube, online videos, newspapers, social media and others, yet the same INEC is suddenly filing a reply denying this thing,” he said.
The Court of Appeal had in a unanimous ruling delivered by Justice Abdul Aboki, held that it is in the interest of justice for Atiku and the PDP to be given access to inspect materials used by INEC in the conduct of the presidential election.
The ex parte was filed and argued by Chief Chris Uche (SAN) on behalf of Atiku and PDP.
The senior lawyer had told the appellate court that the purpose of the motion was to help the petitioners institute and maintain their petition at the tribunal.
Uche said while the first prayer in the motion was supported by a 12 paragraph affidavit and sought for leave of the court to bring the application before the pre-hearing session, the second to six prayers were seeking for an order of the tribunal to compel INEC to allow the petitioners access and as well as inspect, scan and make photocopy of materials for forensic analysis.
It also prayed the court for an order directing INEC to allow their forensic experts carry out audit and analysis of ballot papers, ballot boxes, card readers, computer servers, among other polling documents.
Uche said the application was brought pursuant to section 151(A & B) of the Electoral Act.
However, request by Atiku and the PDP to carry out forensic audit on materials and polling documents was declined by the court.
Justice Aboki in the ruling had held that the applicants’ prayers for scanning and forensic analysis of the election materials run contrary to the provision of section 151 of the Electoral Act.
The court also refused to direct INEC to make available all polling documents for forensic analysis as requested by the applicants.
Meanwhile, the main opposition party has said that the presidency’s jittery reaction to the media interview granted by a top official of INEC, confirming the existence of a central election results transmission server in the commission, further exposes its nerviness, as the guilty is always afraid.
The party in a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that the presidency’s feverish attempt to divert public attention by engaging in judicial interpretations and hauling insults on PDP and its candidate, Abubakar, over determination to retrieve the party’s stolen mandate in the court, would fail.
The party’s spokesperson said that the PDP and its candidate are full of respect for the court and would never join Buhari’s team in engaging in actions that tend to undermine the independence and sanctity of the judiciary.
Ologbondiyan said that the interview, which has already gone viral, speaks volumes about the reported denial by INEC of the existence of such a server for the 2019 general election as well as the frenzy by President Muhammadu Buhari’s team to distract the Presidential election petitions tribunal by externalizing its proceedings.
He stated: “The lesson for all in the latest episode is in the undying verity that no matter how long falsehood appears to thrive, the truth will always come to light and prevail at the end of the day.
“Instead of this pitiable resort to frenetic and chaotic play to the gallery, the PDP counsels President Buhari and his team to focus on facing the course of justice at the tribunal.
“The party advised Buhari and his team to curtail their desperation and respect the sanctity and integrity of the Court of Appeal by ending their externalisation of proceedings, which has been their calculated scheme to distract the court and derail the course of justice.”
The party said it stands firmly with Nigerians in its determination to retrieve its stolen mandate in the court, saying no amount of shenanigans by the APC and the Buhari team will distract its members or detract from the resolve of Nigerians in their expectation of the triumph of their will at the tribunal.
Apparently rattled by the negative impact of some videos circulating on the social media purportedly showing how the February 23, 2019 presidential election was rigged, the spokesman of the Presidential Campaign Council of APC, Keyamo, has said that the videos are of no effect as the courts would be guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act and INEC’s guidelines.
Both PDP and Atiku had claimed to be in possession of certain documents proving that he won the presidential election overwhelmingly with 1.6 million votes.
The PDP and Atiku had since filed a petition, precisely on March 20, to challenge President Buhari’s re-election, with APC and INEC as co-respondents.
In their petition to the tribunal, PDP and Atiku deposed that some ad hoc staff and other INEC officials, relying on the training/instruction by the first respondent (INEC), transmitted the scores they got from the polling units to INEC server.
Atiku and PDP went on to list 13 ad hoc staff of INEC who all testified that they, indeed, uploaded results from their polling units to the INEC server as instructed during their training.
Atiku had also insisted that the results he allegedly obtained from the INEC server were neither false, nor contrived, nor concocted.
But in a series of tweets yesterday, Keyamo, who was Director, Strategic Communications of President Buhari’s 2019 presidential campaign, took to his verified Twitter handle @fkeyamo, warning that whatever video or evidence there were, they could not withstand the provisions of the Electoral Act or those on INEC guidelines.
Keyamo tweeted: “Without referring to any particular pending Election Petition, there’s a need to generally guide Nigerians not to gullibly fall for the fantasy created by any video circulating where INEC official(s) spoke of INEC’s plan to electronically transmit results before the elections.
“The video(s) of some INEC official(s) expressing intention to electronically transmit results are only circulated for entertainment. That procedure is neither contained in the Electoral Act nor in INEC’s Guidelines. Courts are only guided by these documents and not such videos.
“Also, what you plan to do may be different from what you actually did. Assuming INEC planned to transmit electronically, the moment it said after the election that it did not do so, the matter ends there, especially as the Electoral Act and the guidelines do not allow it to do so.
“In anticipation of the electronic transmission, some crooks concocted fictitious results and perhaps in connivance with certain INEC insiders (or by hacking) tried to upload those results into the server. The fact that electronic transmission didn’t happen destroyed their plan.
“The irony is that the real cheats are the ones struggling to create a narrative that they were cheated; the real crooks are the ones struggling to convince everyone that the system is crooked; those who actually planned to steal the people’s mandate are the ones crying foul.
“The noise about electronic transmission of INEC results is akin to a student who wants to cheat in an exam and enters the hall with prepared answers, not noticing that the set questions are not exactly framed as expected.
“So, when he’s later told he failed, he says it’s impossible!”