Obi tells tribunal how INEC denied him access to materials in Rivers, Sokoto, others

•He’s not willing to pay for exhibits certification –Commission

Presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, has told the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refused to produce 70 per cent of the electoral documents he requested to facilitate the prosecution of his petition.

Obi, who came third in the February 25 presidential election is challenging the conduct and outcome of the poll.

At yesterday’s pre-hearing session, Obi insisted that the election was manipulated in favour of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.

His lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzougwu, specifically told the Justice Haruna Tsammani five-member tribunal that he could not access documents used for the election in Rivers and Sokoto states.

He lamented that the electoral body demanded N1.5 million to process election materials from Sokoto State.

Uzougwu told the tribunal that “in the case of Rivers State, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) boldly told us they do not have any form EC8 to give us.”

He drew the attention of the court to two previous rulings directing INEC to grant access to LP for the inspection of electoral documents like Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines that were deployed for the conduct of the poll.

In one of such rulings, the Court had on March 3 and 8 directed  the electoral body to make available certified true copies of result sheets and other data obtained from the BVAS machines to tender same to aid the petitioner’s case.

Uzoukwu equally referred to five separate letters written to INEC chairman, Yakubu Mahmood, requesting that access be granted to inspect and obtain relevant electoral documents to strengthen the petitioner’s suit at the court.

However, counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, who denied the allegations, said his client was ready to cooperate with all parties in the petitions and the court.

He told the court that Obi’s legal team declined to attend a meeting that was called to streamline issues around documents to be tendered before the court.

“We agreed to meet on Monday and Tuesday (15 and 16 May). But on Monday, 15 May, I received a call that the Labour Party legal team had not turned up at the venue for the inspection of the documents,” Mahmoud said.

He explained that LP was given some electoral documents in Rivers, but insisted on collecting all the documents that were required.
“The commission has not refused to produce any document,” Mahmoud said.

Obi’s counsel, Uzougwu, however responded that his team did not walk out of any meeting.

APC lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, agreed with INEC’s position regarding access to electoral documents.

“All public documents coming from INEC and duly certified will not be objected to but other documents may be objected to with reasons given and arguments presented at the end of the day before judgement. We are ready and willing to cooperate with the court,” he assured.

Lead counsel to Tinubu,  Wole Olanipekun, said he had no issues accessing documents from the electoral umpire.

“We will reserve our objection to documents until the end of the trial,” Olanipekun said.

After listening to all parties, the court adjourned proceedings until May 19.

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