March 16, 2023

Presidential poll: Atiku, PDP withdraw fresh application against INEC

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday withdrew a fresh application they filed to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to allow their agents participate in the process of sorting out ballot papers that were used for the presidential election that held on February 25.

Both PDP and Atiku, who are separately challenging the outcome of the election declared in favour of the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu, told the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, that they were no longer interested in the application.

When the motion ex-parte, marked: CA/PEC/10M/2023, was called up for hearing yesterday, Atiku, through his team of lawyers, led by Mr. Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN, told the court that he filed a notice of discontinuance.

Vanguard learned that the decision of Atiku who came second in the presidential election, to withdraw the application, was a fallout of a meeting his legal team held with the leadership of the electoral body on Tuesday.

“We filed the application owing to challenges and administrative bottlenecks we encountered at the INEC office when we went for access to the election materials as ordered by the court.

“However, before the application dated March 13 could be slated for hearing, INEC, on its own, called our legal team for a meeting.

“It was at that meeting which held yesterday (Tuesday) that all the grey areas were sorted out, with INEC pledging to allow our agents observe the process of sorting out some of the electoral materials we requested, especially the ballot papers.

“Since that was primarily our prayer in the fresh application we filed, we felt it would not be necessary to proceed with the hearing. So, to save judicial time, we filed a notice of discontinuance which was accordingly granted”, a member of Atiku’s legal team who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, told Vanguard.

Meanwhile, following the withdrawal of the application, the Justice Joseph Ikyegh-led three-member panel struck it out.

Specifically, Atiku had in the withdrawn application, which he predicated on 11 grounds, maintained that it was necessary for agents of his party to be present during the sorting out of the electoral materials he would need to prepare a petition he intended to lodge against the outcome of the presidential election.

He said there was need for his agents to observe/participate in the sorting of materials he requested in all the offices of INEC nationwide, in line with the ex-parte order the court made on March 3.

The tribunal had in the said order, directed INEC to allow the Applicants, Atiku and PDP, to inspect, scan, carry out forensic examination and analysis of the ballot papers, data form, BVAS/and or card readers, including photocopying of the ballot papers, information stored in the computer server/IREV.

Atiku argued that allowing the agents of his party to be on ground while the materials were sorted out, would ensure transparency in the process and guarantee that the ballot papers would not be tampered with.

It will be recalled that though the court ordered INEC to grant both Atiku and his counterpart in the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi, who came third in the election, access to the electoral materials, however, in a subsequent order it made on March 8, the panel gave the electoral body the nod to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines it used for the presidential election.

The court held that stopping INEC from reconfiguring the BVAS would adversely affect the conduct of the governorship and State Assembly elections billed for Saturday.

It dismissed objections that the LP and its candidate, Obi, raised against INEC’s move to reconfigure all the BVAS devices used for the presidential poll.

According to the court, allowing the objections by Obi and his party would amount to “tying the hands of the Respondent, INEC”.

It noted that INEC depositions in an affidavit, that accreditation data contained in the BVAS could not be tampered with or lost, as same would be stored and easily retrieved from its back-end server, was not controverted.