FCT: Don’t tamper with our victory, Labour Party cautions INEC

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Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the most recent presidential election, has withdrawn his request that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) permit PDP agents to take part in the process of sorting out materials (ballot papers) used in the running of the presidential election on February 25.

In a Notice of Discontinuance, Atiku and the PDP informed the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja that they were no longer interested in the petition.
When the motion ex-parte with the reference number CA/PEC/10M/2023 was called up for a hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Joe Gadzama (SAN), the lead attorney for Atiku and the PDP, made this statement.

In addition to the motion to order INEC to permit their agents to sort out election materials, Atiku and the PDP also filed a motion exparte asking for permission to serve court documents on the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the winner of the presidential election, by an alternative method, namely by serving the documents on their staff or posting them on their property.

Atiku and the PDP, as well as Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), were able to examine the election materials used in the presidential election on February 25 thanks to permission from the PEPC on March 3.

However, Atiku and PDP submitted a new application at the PEPC due to alleged administrative bottlenecks at the INEC office in carrying out the order of inspection of the election materials.
However, it was discovered that INEC had scheduled a meeting with the applicants’ legal team before the March 13 application could be scheduled for the hearing.

“All the ambiguities were resolved at the meeting that took place yesterday (Tuesday), with INEC promising to permit our agents to watch as some of the electoral materials we requested, particularly the ballot papers, were sorted.

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“Because that was the main request we made in the new application we submitted, we decided it was unnecessary to hold the hearing. Therefore, in order to save the court’s time, we filed a notice of discontinuance, which was subsequently approved, according to a member of Atiku’s legal team who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the subject.
After that, a three-person panel led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh dismissed the applications.

According to the motion, which was supported by 11 grounds, representatives of the applicants had to be present while the electoral materials were being sorted so that their intended petition against the results of the presidential election at the PEPC could be prepared.

It was further argued that, in accordance with the ex-parte order the court issued on March 3, the agents of the applicants were required to observe and participate in the sorting of materials requested in all of INEC’s national offices.

Atiku and Obi were given permission to inspect “all the electoral materials used in the conduct of the election for the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on February 25, 2023” by Justice Ikyegh in his ruling in the exparte on March 3.
Additionally, the court gave them permission to electronically scan and/or make copies of the presidential election ballots and registration forms.

Also allowed by the order is “carrying out digital forensic inspection of BVAS machines used for the conduct of the February 25” presidential election for Atiku and Obi.

After collating the results from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu declared Tinubu the winner of the presidential election on March 1 because he received the most votes cast.

Tinubu won the election with more than eight million votes, followed by Atiku with almost seven million and Obi with just over six million.

Like Tinubu and Atiku, who each won 12 states, Obi won 11 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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Both Atiku and Obi vowed to air their grievances at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, the court tasked with hearing and deciding cases pertaining to the conduct of the presidential election, after they were dissatisfied with the declaration of Tinubu as the election’s victor.

Atiku and Obi requested a court order allowing them to inspect the materials used for the February 25 presidential election in separate motions exparte while they have not yet filed their respective petitions.

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