The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has refused the application by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar to inspect smart card readers and the server used for the February 23 presidential election.
Delivering ruling on the application yesterday, the five-member panel of justices unanimously declined to grant the application and ordered the same dismissed.
In the main ruling, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba held that the matter being a substantive issue for determination by the tribunal, it cannot be determined at the interlocutory stage.
Justice Garba observed that since the issue of a server was being contested by the parties, allowing the application would amount to prejudging and admitting the existence of it even before the substantive hearing.
“The scenario will be unpalatable and will create the impression that the court has indeed recognised the existence of a central server and that the result was electronically transmitted.”
“The law is settled that the court should ensure caution while dealing with the interlocutory application so as not to make any observation that affect the substantive case”, the tribunal held.
The judge said granting such an application depends on a judge’s discretion, which he said is based on facts, adding “proper exercise of discretion is exercised by a judge based on what is fair and the rules and principles of law.”
Atiku in the petition by his team of lawyers led by Levy Uzoukwu (SAN) had contended that data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s server contains “the true, actual and correct results upon a state to state computation.”
Atiku claimed that he polled 18,356,732 votes while President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) got 16, 741,430 votes.
This is against the 15,191,847 votes for Buhari and 11,262,978 votes to Atiku, which INEC claimed it manually computed for the election.
Earlier, INEC, Buhari and APC lawyers: Yunus Ustaz Usman (SAN), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) had argued that granting the application would amount to the court reversing itself because it ruled on March 6 that only election materials used for the election and not the server would be inspected.
“Application anchored on data in server only exists in the imagination of the petitioner,” Olanipekun said.
The tribunal adjourned to June 26 for hearing an application by the PDP seeking to set aside the proceeding of June 11 and pre-hearing.
Following the conclusion of the ruling, a counsel in the legal team of Atiku, Chris Uche (SAN) had indicated that the team would challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court, arguing that Section 151 of the Electoral Act permits the inspection of all materials used for the election.