BY INNOCENT ANABA

LAGOS – The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, weekend, vacated the order by the  Lagos election petition tribunal sitting in Igbosere, directing the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,  to permit Mr Cosmas Okoli of the Labour Party, LP, and his forensic experts to inspect and analyse electoral materials used for the April election.

Okoli is challenging the election of Mr. Ganiyu Olukolu, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, House of Representatives, representing Amuwo-Odofin Federal Constituency, Lagos State.

The Court of Appeal held that an order which has the effect of allowing a party to take possession of election materials and hand them over to its hired forensic analysts behind the back of the other party was suspicious, because the other party ought to have been represented while the forensic analysis was being carried out.

The tribunal had granted Okoli’s ex-parte application, mandating  INEC to permit his forensic experts to inspect and analyze the electoral materials,  including biometric data used for the election and also to allow the report of such analysis to be tendered as further evidence.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, Olukolu, appealed against same, praying the appellate court to vacate same.

Olukolu’s counsel, had in the appeal, contended that Paragraph 47 (2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), stipulates that any motion to the tribunal shall be served on the respondent, and that it was obvious that the motion ex-parte filed by the petitioners was unknown to the Electoral Act.

He had also argued that even the motion ex-parte was heard by the tribunal before the pre-hearing session and that no leave was either sought or obtained as required by Section 145 (1) of the Electoral Act.

He urged the appellate court to set aside both the ex-parte orders and the ruling dismissing a motion challenging the ex-parte orders.

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