By Andy Chukwu
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that it had no server to be inspected by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over the conduct of the February 23 presidential poll.
Atiku and PDP had filed an application seeking access to inspect the server and data of smart card readers used by the electoral body in the conduct of the election.
Moving the motion for the inspection of INEC server and other electoral materials, a lead counsel to Atiku and the PDP, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), said the request was essential to their petition challenging the declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the election.
Atiku and PDP had in their petition stated that by the figures obtained from INEC’s server, they won the presidential election against Buhari and the third respondent, All Progressives Congress (APC).
Based on the figures allegedly obtained from the server, Atiku said he scored 18,356,732 votes as against those of Buhari, who he said polled 16,741,430 votes.
“The servers from which the said figures were derived belong to the first respondent (INEC). The figures and votes were transmitted to the first respondent’s Presidential Result’s Server 1 and, thereafter, aggregated in INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019, whose physical address or unique Mac address is 94-57-A5-DC-64-B9 with Microsoft Product ID 00252-7000000000-AA535. The above descriptions are unique to the 15th respondent’s server,” Atiku and his party claimed.
“There is no conjecture in the votes and scores in the table pleaded by the petitioners. The figures are factual. The spokesperson for the 2nd respondent’s campaign organization openly admitted that the data in question were in the first respondent’s server when he wrote and submitted a petition to the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) asking the security agencies to investigate the 2nd petitioner herein for allegedly hacking into the server of the 1st respondent and obtaining the data in question.
“Specifically, Festus Keyamo (SAN), the spokesperson of the 2nd respondent, claimed in the said petition that it was the first petitioner who smuggled the data into the server.”
Atiku and the PDP also alleged that the INEC chairman “committed grave errors in the final collation exercise” for the election by “falsely crediting” some persons with political parties, including “Okotie Christopher, Reverend Dr. Onwubuya and Ojinika Jeff Chinze.”
Uche told the tribunal that the inspection of the server and data was necessary in the interest of justice, transparency and neutrality on the part of the first respondents, INEC.
But the INEC counsel, Yunus Usman (SAN), vehemently opposed the application for the inspection of the server. He said that the application should be dismissed because, “We do not have a server.”
Usman also said that the Court of Appeal in an enrolled order of March 6, 2019 refused all the prayers in the said application. He maintained that the court, having refused the prayers, lacked jurisdiction to revisit it.
The lead counsel to President Buhari, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and the counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), also made a similar argument in opposing the application for inspection.
Olanipekun told the tribunal that it lacked jurisdiction to overrule itself while Fagbemi urged the panel to be wary of making an order that it is not capable of enforcing, because INEC had said it had no server.
Consequently, the five-man panel led by Justice Mohammed Garba, announced reservation of ruling in the application to a date to be communicated to the parties. He then adjourned the pre-hearing of Atiku and PDP’s petition till June 24.
Earlier, the tribunal heard the motions filed by INEC, President Buhari and APC urging it to dismiss the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Oworu, for being incompetent and abuse of court processes.
Olanipekun, in his argument, said that there was no petition filed by the party before the tribunal because what was served on the respondents was a petition against referendum that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain.
The tribunal, however, reserved ruling to a date to be communicated to the parties in the suit and adjourned the pre-hearing of the HDP’s petition till June 20, 2019.