The Supreme Court has turned down the request of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to inspect the central server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The apex court also struck out another appeal filed against the ruling of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal which it held that Atiku and the PDP do not have a reply to an application filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking the dismissal of their petition.
The second appeal was dismissed following the withdrawal of same by the two appellants.
A five-man panel of the apex court held yesterday that Atiku’s request to inspect the INEC central server could not be granted because it was brought after parties had joined issues on the existence or otherwise of the server.
In the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Chima Nweze, the Supreme Court held that the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal was in order in refusing to grant Atiku’s request at the time it was made so as not to prejudice other parties in the matter.
In addition, the apex court held that the appeal lacked merit because the appellants failed to prove how the decision of the tribunal was unfair to them.
Justice Nweze said that a party can only complain of the lack of fair hearing when the discretion of court is wrongly or arbitrarily used by the court, adding that in the instant case the tribunal used its discretion judicially and judiciously.
Justice Nweze said: “I see no reason to depart from the decision of the lower court; the appeal is lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed.”
Also yesterday, the Supreme Court struck out an appeal filed against the decision of the tribunal by the PDP and Atiku.
The appeal marked SC/738/2019 was filed against ruling of the tribunal which it held that Atiku and the PDP do not have a reply to an application filed by the APC seeking the dismissal of their petition.
A five-man panel led by Justice Datijo Mohammed dismissed the appeal for having become statute barred.
At the resumed hearing of the appeal, the counsel to the appellants, Eyitayo Jegede, informed the court that the appeal having not been argued within 21 days allowed by law had become statute barred.
The appeal sought to upturn the decision of the tribunal which held that the petitioners lost their right of objection to the APC’s application seeking the dismissal of their petition or expunge some parts of the petition having not filed a reply within the time prescribed by the law.
The withdrawal was not opposed by the respondents: INEC, Buhari and the APC.
Accordingly, the presiding justice, Justice Mohammed Datijo, struck out the appeal.
In a reaction to the apex court’s decisions, Atiku said that there was “no cause for alarm.”
Through his lead counsel at yesterday’s proceedings, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), Atiku said that this kind of decision was anticipated and that proactive action had been taken during the hearing of the petition.
Jegede said that the issue of server which was aimed at establishing that the election was rigged during collation of the results was thoroughly addressed through witnesses and documents tendered and admitted during the presentation of the petition.
He expressed optimism that the tribunal would do justice at the end of the day.
Atiku approached the Supreme Court for an order setting aside the decision of the tribunal which refused to compel INEC to allow him access to the central server allegedly used in the conduct of the presidential poll.
Jegede told the five man panel of the apex court led by Justice Mohammed Datijo, that access to INEC’s central server was germane to the joint petition of Atiku and PDP and urged the court to grant the request of the appellants by ordering INEC to allow access to its database.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) asked the court to turn down the request and to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the appeal had become academic.
Olanipekun drew the attention of the court to the fact that the life of the appeal would expire tomorrow and even if the request was granted it would serve no purpose for the two petitioners since they had long close their case.
He further told the court that parties would today adopt their final written addresses at the tribunal after which a judgment date would be fixed.
Olanipekun’s position was, however, adopted by counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN) and that of the APC, Charles Edosamwam.
The tribunal in a ruling on June 24, 2019 refused to grant the request of the petitioners on the grounds that doing so would amount to admitting the existence of the ‘controversial INEC central server’.
The tribunal in its ruling delivered by the chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, also held that granting the application would be prejudice to the respondents in the petition.
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