By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor, Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, yesterday launched a legal battle over last month’s presidential election with indication that it intends to rely heavily on evidence provided by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The CPC whose candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, came second in the election approached the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to compel INEC and all its Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, to furnish it with certain documents and material evidence that will be pivotal to the success of its petition against the result of the election.
About 400 other petitioners who contested the National Assembly, governorship and state Assembly elections have also gone to court over their defeat.
Defendants in the CPC suit are INEC National Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega; the presidential candidate of the PDP, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; his running mate, Architect Namadi Sambo; the PDP; and all the Resident Electoral Commissioners for the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
In an ex-parte motion filed yesterday by counsel to the plaintiff, Chief Ricky Tarfa , SAN, pursuant to Sections 77(1) and 151 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), Order 26 Rule 8 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2009, CPC is seeking an order directing all the respondents to seal all the Direct Data Capturing Machines (DDC machines), ballot papers, as well as the ballot boxes used in the Presidential Election with a view to preserving same for Forensic test in the course of hearing a petition it is yet to file before the tribunal.
The Electoral Act, 210, requires all petitions in respect of an election to be filed within 21 days of the announcement of the result.
In effect, all petitions on the presidential election must be filed not later than Monday, May 9.
The CPC in the ex-parte motion, wants an order directing the 1st and 2nd respondents, (INEC and Prof Jega) to produce for inspection of the applicant and permitting the applicant to take copies of the documents/materials/ballot papers used in the conduct of the Presidential Election held on Saturday the 16th day of April, 2011.
Specifically, the party is seeking “an order of the Honorable Tribunal directing the 1st and 2nd respondents to allow access to the petitioner, her solicitors, her agents and her biometric experts access to Biometric Data base of all registered voters in Nigeria in the presence of the respondents for the purpose of cross checking the finger prints on the face of the Ballot Papers cast in the States, Local Government, Wards , Polling units in respect of complaints in this petition and to compare them with finger prints, entries in the Biometric Database already in the custody of 1st respondent for the purpose of making analysis for use in evidence before this Honorable Tribunal.
“An order of the Honorable Court directing the 1st,2nd and 4th -42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition, the list of INEC officials and ad hoc staff containing their names addresses, occupations and other designations of the said officers and staff used in the presidential election across the nation.
“An order of this Honorable Court directing the 1st, 2nd and 4th-42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition, the list of local contractors engaged by INEC to print ballot papers used in the Presidential Election and copies of contract papers used in the Presidential election and copies of contract papers executed by INEC evidencing the awards of the contract to them.
“An order of this Honorable court directing the 1st, 2nd, and 4th-42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition, guidelines and manuals issued by INEC for the4 conduct of 2011 General Election.
“An order of this Honorable Court directing the 1st, 2nd and 4th-42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition, list of accredited local and international observers for the purpose of monitoring the Presidential Election.
“An order of this court directing the 1st, 2nd and 4th-42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition, Tabulation of Ballot Papers distribution evidencing the serial numbers of the Ballot Papers shared across the country in Polling Unit, Ward, Local Government and States basis.
“An order of this Honorable Court directing the 1st, 2nd and 4th-42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition, Delineation of Polling units by their codes on the basis of States, Federal Constituencies, Local Government, Wards and Polling units.
“An order of this Honorable Court directing the 1st, 2nd and 4th-42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition Un-coded EXCEL application templates used in the computer summation of the result for the Presidential Election used across the nation on the 16th April,2011.
“An order of this Honorable Court directing the 1st, 2nd and 4th – 42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition all the thumb printed ballot papers in all the polling units in all the States that were used across the nation in the Presidential election of the 1gth April, 2011.
As well as “an order of this Honorable Court directing the 1st, 2nd, and 4th-42nd respondents to provide to the applicant for its use for its petition, copies of relevant forms for electoral materials receipt and ballot paper account and verification statement in which entries of ballot papers dispatched for the Presidential Election of the 16th April, 2011 was recorded”.
400 other petitioners head for tribunals
ABOUT 400 petitions have either been filed or about to be filed in respect of the 2011 elections, according to investigation by Saturday Vanguard.
There were 1,648 elections in all: one presidential; 26 for governorship; 109 for senatorial; 360 for House of Representatives; and 1,152 for state assembly.
Although more petitions may be filed within the 21 days after declaration of result stipulated by new Electoral Law, the 400 figure is low compared to the 1,527 petitions submitted in the aftermath of the 2007 election of which at least one is yet to be concluded: Delta State governorship election.
The major petitions in this dispensation include those of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari who is going to the tribunal to nullify the election of President Goodluck Jonathan as the winner of the April 16 election; Gov. Alao-Akala’s threat to challenge the victory of Senator Abiola Ajimobi in Oyo State; and the ACN litigation against Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State (See details on P.10).
Already, 110 Justices have been named to handle the election petitions. Sections 133-135 of the new Electoral Act provide for “Determination and election petitions arising from elections; Proceeding to question an election; and Time for prosecuting election tribunal as follows:
Part VIII – Determination of Election Petitions Arising From Elections
-(1) No election and return at an election under this Bill shall be questioned in any manner other than by a petition complaining of an undue election or undue return (in this Bill referred to as an “election petition”) presented to the competent tribunal or court in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution or of this Bill, and in which the person elected or returned is joined as a party.
“(2) In this part “tribunal or court” means-
(a) in the case of Presidential or Governorship election, the court of Appeal; and
(b) in the case of any other elections under this Bill, the election tribunal established under the Constitution or by this Bill.
(3) The election tribunals shall-
(a) be constituted not later than 14 days before the election; and
(b) when constituted, open their registries for business 7 days before the election.
Proceedings to question an Election
134. -(1) (1) An election petition shall be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of results of the elections;
(2) An election tribunal shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition;
(3) An appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed of within 90 days from the date of the delivery of judgment of the tribunal;
(4) The court in all appeals from election tribunals may adopt the practice of first giving its decision and reserving the reasons thereto for the decision to a later date;
Time for presenting Election Petition
– (1) There shall be established for the Federal Capital Territory one or more Election Tribunals (in this Act referred to as the Area Council Election Tribunal) which shall, to the exclusion of any other court or tribunal, have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to whether establishment of Area Council Election Tribunal.
Unlike before, a fresh election shall be conducted where the Court or Tribunal determines that the winner of a particular election was not solidly elected. Section 140 says: