The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal on Wednesday granted the request by Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to be allowed to inspect the electoral materials used by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the conduct of the February 23 poll.
But the three-man panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki unanimously rejected other prayers by the applicants seeking orders permitting them to, among others, photocopy and scan the electoral documents.
The tribunal also refused their requests to be allowed to conduct a forensic examination and forensic analysis of the materials and have access to card reader data and information contained in the cloud and electronic storage used for the poll.
Delivering the lead ruling, Justice Aboki said by virtue of the provision of section 151 of the Electoral Act on which the applicants’ motion ex parte was anchored, they were only entitled to inspection of the electoral materials and the certified true copies of all the materials used for the poll.
The two other members of the panel, Justices Peter Ige and Emmanuel Agim, agreed with the lead ruling.
Earlier, the three-man panel, in a pre-hearing session of the tribunal had on Wednesday, entertained the applicants’ argument for about 45 minutes and rose.
It promised to return in one hour’s time to deliver its ruling but did not return until about three hours after.
The applicants’ legal team was led by Livy Ozoukwu (SAN), but Chief Chris Uche (SAN), made submissions on behalf of the team.
As expected in an ex parte hearing, the respondents – President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress and the Independent National Electoral Commission – were absent and not represented by their lawyers.
Uche said during the Wednesday’s hearing that the ex parte motion contained six prayers, one of which sought the tribunal’s leave to bring the motion up in the tribunal pre-hearing session.
He added, “Prayers 2 to 6 are in summary seeking orders of this honourable court to allow the inspection and production of election documents used by the Independent Electoral Commission for the conduct of the presidential election to enable the applicants to institute and maintain an election petition.”
But during the proceedings, members of the panel expressed reservations about whether the tribunal could grant some prayers contained in the application for orders allowing them to scan and photocopy electoral materials as well as allow them to conduct forensic examination and forensic audit of the materials.
Responding, Uche insisted that there were authorities of the Court of Appeal which had interpreted section 155 of the Electoral Act to mean that petitioners could be granted all the prayers sought in the ex parte application.