No cause for alarm as Supreme Court strikes out suit to inspect INEC server – Atiku

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the February 23 election, Atiku Abubakar, Tuesday, said there was no cause for any alarm on the verdict of the Supreme Court to strike out his appeal to inspect the central server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The apex court had in a judgment held that Atiku’s request could not be granted because it was brought after parties have joined issues on the existence or otherwise of the server.

In the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Chima Nweze, it said the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal was in order in refusing to grant Atiku’s request at the time it was made so as not to prejudice other parties in the matter.

In addition, the apex court held that the appeal lacked merit because the appellants failed to prove how the decision of the tribunal was unfair to them.

Justice Nweze said a party can only complain of the lack of fair hearing when discretion of court was wrongly or arbitrarily used by the court, adding that in this instant case, the tribunal used its discretion judicially and judiciously.

“I see no reason to depart from the decision of the lower court, the appeal is lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed”, Justice Nweze said.

Reacting, Atiku, who spoke through his lead counsel at Tuesday’s proceedings, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, said that the decision was anticipated and that proactive action had been taken during the hearing of the petition.

Jegede said that the issue of server which was aimed at establishing that the election was rigged during collation of results was thoroughly addressed through witnesses and documents tendered and admitted during the presentation of the petition.

He expressed optimism that the tribunal would do justice at the end of the day.

Atiku had approached the Supreme Court praying for an order to set aside the decision of the tribunal which refused to compel INEC to allow him access to the central server alleged used in the conduct of the presidential poll.

The senior lawyer told the five man panel of the apex court led by Justice Mohammed Datijo, that access to the INEC’s central server is germane to the joint petition of Atiku and PDP and urged the court to grant the request of the appellants by ordering the electoral body to allow access to its database.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, asked the court to turn down the request and to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the appeal has become academic.

Olanipekun drew the attention of the court to the fact that the life of the appeal will expire tomorrow and even if the request is granted it will serve no purpose to the two petitioners since they have long close their case.

Olanipekun further told the court that parties will on Wednesday adopt their final written addresses at the tribunal after which a judgment date will be fixed.

The position of Olanipekun was, however, adopted by counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman SAN and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Charles Edosamwam.

Recall that the tribunal in a ruling on June 24 refused to grant the request of the petitioners on the grounds that doing so would amount to admitting the existence of the ‘controversial INEC central server’.

The tribunal in its ruling delivered by its Chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba further held that granting the application would be prejudice to the respondents in the petition.

Dissatisfied, the petitioners approached the Supreme Court to upturn the decision.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the apex court struck out another appeal by Atiku and the PDP following the withdrawal of same by the two appellants.

At the resumed hearing of the appeal, counsel to the appellants, Eyitayo Jegede, informed the court that the appeal having not been argued within 21 days allowed by law has become statute barred.

The appeal SC/738/2019 was seeking to upturn the decision of the tribunal which held that the petitioners lost their right of objection to the APC’s application seeking the dismissal of their petition or expunge some parts of the petition having not filed a reply within the time prescribed by the law.

The withdrawal was not opposed by the respondents; INEC, Buhari and the APC.

Accordingly, presiding Justice of the five man panel, Justice Mohammed Datijo struck out the appeal.

Meanwhile parties in the petition will tomorrow adopt their final written addresses to state their respective positions in the petition challenging the declaration of Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential election.

The tribunal had adjourned till August 21 for adoption of final written addresses after the parties in the petition had argued and close their cases for and against the petition.

But the tribunal is expected to announce a date for its decision after parties have adopted their final addresses tomorrow.