Tribunal Rejects Atiku, PDP’s Request To Access INEC’s Server
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has turned down the application filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and it’s presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to access and inspect the server and data of smart card readers said to have been deployed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the February 23 Presidential Election.
Chairman of the five-man panel of the tribunal Justice Mohammed Garba, who read the unanimous ruling, held that it will be premature for the tribunal to delve into and resolve the contentious issue of the existence of a central server at INEC because parties have already joined issues in the main suit.
The chairman added that doing so would create the impression that the tribunal has concluded that there is a central server where results of the February 23 election were received and stored.
“I decline to grant the relieve sought, this application is refused and accordingly dismissed”, Justice Garba said.
Meanwhile, Lead Counsel to the Petitioners, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), said the decision of the tribunal would be challenged at the Supreme Court, adding that Section 151 of the Electoral Act allows them to inspect materials used by INEC for the election.
According to him, INEC had mentioned having a central server. He, therefore, wondered why the Commission turned around to say it had no server.
“We are not asking the court to decide whether there is a server or not, so the aspect of the court prejudging in the issue doesn’t arise at all. All we are saying is that the court should allow us access to inspect the materials which we are entitled to as INEC is a public institution funded by public funds.
Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), one of the counsel to the petitioners, also reacting said: “the INEC chairman himself, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu has maintained again and again before and during the election that there is a central server, that results were going to be electronically transmitted to that central server. And all the electoral commissioners maintained that the stage we are in now is a technological stage where things would not be done manually and anything not done with the PVC which results would be transmitted electronically to the central server would not be valid.
“What the court has said today is more or less that you don’t have the right under Section 151 of the electoral act to maintain your petition, but we didn’t ask for details, we didn’t ask for content, all we asked for is to allow us access.
“We are appealing the decision because it is like tying your hands behind your back and expecting you to fight. We are appealing the decision because we want to know what is in the central server that they are hiding,” he said.
Beyond that, he said the public is also interested because according to him, a budget was made for procurement of the central server in billions and it was approved by the National Assembly and disbursed.