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Court dismisses Obi’s applications to question INEC

THE Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) has dismissed two applications by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi, seeking to interrogate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts used for the conduct of the February 25, 2023, presidential election.

This is as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday called two additional witnesses to further prove his allegation of malpractices during the election.

A five-member panel of the PEPC in a unanimous decision held that the two applications were incompetent and lacking in merit and accordingly dismissed them.

The five-member panel had on Thursday reserved ruling after counsel to parties argued for and against the granting of the applications.

Obi and the LP had through their lawyer, Patrick Ikweto (SAN), at Thursday’s proceedings, moved two pending applications, which specifically sought to know the quality of the ICT experts deployed by INEC for the presidential poll.

Delivering the ruling in the two applications yesterday, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Haruna Tsammani held that the petitioners failed to establish “the existence of an extreme circumstance” for the granting of such applications.

According to the court, applications relating to electoral matters, including interrogatories must be filed and heard during the pre-hearing session, adding that any application which is brought after the end of pre-hearing must show extreme circumstances why the court should hear it.

Justice Tsammani held that the claim of the petitioners that the application was filed on May 22, the last day of pre-hearing could not be sustained because they failed to counter the submission of counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), that the application was filed at the close of pre-hearing and not served on some of the respondents.

The panel further noted that even if the petitioners had filed on May 22, they ought to have drawn the attention of the court to the motion of notice, stating that not doing so was an indication that they may have abandoned the motion.

While stating that the petitioners did not challenge the report of the panel that the pre-hearing session ended on May 22, “nor draw the attention of the court to the pending applications,” Justice Tsammani held that, “it is the duty of a party who files a motion to indicate its intention to move it…a process not moved is deemed not to have been filed.”

The panel further stated that it was wrong for the petitioners to blame the respondents or the court for a motion that was not filed or moved.

“The application is incompetent and accordingly dismissed”, Justice Tsammani held.

Obi and LP had in their motion prayed the court for an order compelling INEC to supply them with the names and profiles of the ICT experts that participated in one way or another in the February 25 presidential election.

Besides, Obi and his party raised 12 questions to be forwarded to INEC for answers.

It is the position of the petitioners that INEC did not only breach its own regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the presidential election but manipulated the process so that the outcome provides specific desired results.

It was further stated in their submission that the request, if granted will assist them in establishing their petition challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu as President.

The two applications – the first seeking leave of court to bring the application and the second the main application was first filed on May 22 and replaced with another dated June 2.

However, when Ikweto attempted to move the applications on June 5, the respondents objected because it was not ripe for a hearing.

When it was moved on June 8, the respondents however opposed the granting of the request because it was belated and the court lacked the necessary jurisdiction to entertain the applications.

According to INEC’s lawyer, Kemi Pinhero (SAN), the applications were not only incompetent but amounted to a waste of the precious time of the PREPEC.

He pointed out that the applications lacked merit because they were not brought within the time allowed by law.

He argued that such applications ought to have been brought and argued during the pre-hearing session of the PREPEC.

Similarly, Tinubu and APC represented by Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN) and Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), respectively, in their submissions also opposed the granting of the two applications.

After listening to the arguments of counsel representing parties, the Presiding Justice, Tsammani reserved the ruling for a later date, which was yesterday.

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