The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated the reason for denying Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, access to some electoral documents they sought to prosecute their matter at the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC.
Levy Uzoukwu, lead counsel to the former Anambra governor and the opposition party had told the five-member panel of the PEPC on Wednesday that the electoral body denied them access to some electoral materials which will aid them in court.
Mr Uzokwu said INEC, which they wrote to on several occasions alongside court orders made on the 3rd and 5th days of March, “stubbornly refused to produce 70 percent of the electoral documents that were requested” in Rivers and Sokoto states.
He said the commission was requesting the sum of N1.5 million to provide access to that of Sokoto State alone.
“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.