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Election: Tribunal Fixes Tomorrow For Atiku, PDP’s Motion On INEC’s Server

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The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal yesterday fixed Thursday for hearing of the Peoples Democratic Party and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s application for access to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s electronic server.
The PDP’s presidential candidate in the February 23, 2019 election and his party are challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress at the poll.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, Buhari and the APC are the respondents to the petition.
The Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-man tribunal also, yesterday, reserved its rulings on nine applications it heard in respect of the petition yesterday.
Leading Justices Abdul Aboki, Joseph Ikyegh, Samuel Oseji, and Peter Ige on the panel of the tribunal, Justice Garba said the date for the rulings would be communicated to the lawyers representing the parties in the case.
INEC had declared that Buhari and APC the winner of the February 23 election polling 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, who polled 11,262,978 votes.
But Atiku and the PDP, in their petition filed on March 18 to challenge the outcome of the poll, contended that “from the data” obtained from INEC’s server, “the true, actual and correct results” showed that they polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari whom they said scored 16,741,430 votes.
By calculation, Atiku and PDP claimed to have defeated Buhari by 1,615,302 votes.
However, in its reply filed on April 10 to counter the petition, INEC urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition, insisting that the petitioners’ claims were false.
It said, through its lead counsel, Yunus Usman (SAN), that it collated the results of the election manually and never transmitted them electronically.
It added that it kept no server where results could have been transmitted electronically and stored as alleged by the petitioners.
However, the petitioners, in their application filed on May 8, maintained that INEC kept “central servers” in which “information was recorded and stored in database packets relating to accreditation of voters and transmission of results from the presidential election”.
They sought to be permitted to inspect the said servers and the card readers used for the conduct of the poll, examine and analyse the information obtained from them.
They also prayed for the tribunal’s permission to be allowed to file a report of their inspection, examination and analysis of the content of the facilities.
The applicants filed 13 grounds to back their application and their claims in it.
Part of the grounds of the application acknowledged that INEC was constitutionally and statutorily vested with the responsibility to conduct and manage the presidential election and set up electronic data central servers.
They stated, “The 1st respondent, as the body constitutionally and statutorily vested with the responsibility to conduct and manage the presidential election, set up electronic data central servers for the purposes of storage of transmitted accreditation data and results from smart card readers deployed for the election in an apparent bid to ensure relative transparency of the process.”
They added that “the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) itself acknowledges network data by recognition given to the website of the Independent National Electoral Commission in section 71 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). We also submit that section 84 of the Evidence Act, 2011 recognises computer data, and evidence generated therefrom.
“Thus, the general framework of the law accommodates such data retrievable from computers, of which a server is a storage component.”
Maintaining that INEC deployed the servers for the conduct of the February 23 poll, they said as part of the grounds of their application, “the results of the election were electronically transmitted to the 1st respondent’s Central Server”.
They added that notice had given INEC “notice that reliance will be placed on the extract of the electronic data from the said Central Server as of February 25, 2019”.
They added, “It will work tremendous hardship and grave injustice to refuse access to the contents of the central server that will assist the honourable court in the just consideration and determination of the issues involved in this matter or to allow a Party suppress or withhold access thereto.”
The application along with another one filed on May 5 would be heard by the tribunal on June 13.

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Awara Loses Appeal As Court Confirms Bello As AAC’s Counsel

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The Court of Appeal has upheld the ruling of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal recognising Mr Henry Bello as the authentic counsel of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the appeal filed by the defeated Rivers State African Action Congress (AAC) Governorship Candidate, Engineer Biokpomabo Awara.
The defeated Rivers State African Action Congress (AAC) Governorship Candidate, Biokpomabo Awara through his counsel, Tawo Tawo (SAN), in suit number CA/PH/PHT/356/2019, urged the Court of Appeal to stop Henry Bello from representing the AAC in the governorship petition.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Hamma Barka struck out the AAC interlocutory appeal on the ground that the appellant has no locus to file the appeal as he was no longer the counsel to AAC.
The Court of Appeal also ruled that the appeal filed by the defeated Rivers State AAC Governorship Candidate was incompetent, having been filed without prior leave of court.
The election petition appeal panel also awarded the sum of N50,000 in favour of counsel to AAC, Henry Bello.
The court noted that judgement of a court was sacrosanct, which all parties were bound to obey.
The court emphasised that AAC has the right to change its counsel based on the judgement of the Federal High Court which recognized Leonard Nzenwa as the national chairman of the party.
The court recognised counsel of the AAC, Henry Bello had filed a preliminary objection on the premise of Section 242 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), saying that the appeal was incompetent.
Counsel to INEC, Sir Steve Adave (SAN), said the decision of the Court of Appeal lays to rest the issue of representation in the suit filed by the defeated Rivers State AAC governorship candidate.
Counsel to the AAC, Henry Aleruchi of Henry Bello Chambers, said that the party had sacked Omoyele Sowore and elected Leonard Nzenwa, who subsequently appointed Henry Bello as the authentic counsel of the party.
He said that the ruling of the Court of Appeal was in consonance with the Constitution, which gives individuals the right to choose their counsel.
In a preliminary objection, Counsel to Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) argued that the appellant was not a person affected by the decision/ruling of the tribunal, and accordingly, has no locus standi or competence to appeal the judgment of the tribunal.
Ukala further argued that the appellant’s appeal has been mooted and rendered academic by subsequent events, including the striking out of the substantive appeal by the tribunal.
Mark Agwu, who spoke on behalf of Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), said that the ruling has proved that the appeal was a mere academic exercise and lacks merit.
“The genesis of the issue was that the petition was filed by the Chamber of Tawo E. Tawo representing both petitioners but in course of the proceedings, the AAC decided to debrief the Chambers of Tawo E. Tawo, and engage the Chambers of H.A. Bello to represent it. In the course of that, H.A. Bello fulfilled the condition upon which it can change its counsel.
‘After that, Tawo brought an application asking court to set aside the change of counsel filed by H.A. Bello. After hearing the argument, the tribunal came to the decision that the party deserves its right to engage counsel of its choice, and that is sacrosanct and nobody can change it.

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‘We Stopped EFCC From Planting Foreign Currency In Ambode’s House’ …EFCC Denies Claim

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Three lawyers who claimed to have witnessed EFCC’s raid on the Epe residence of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode yesterday, alleged that they stopped the anti-graft officials from “planting foreign currency” in the house.
The lawyers – Fatai Adebanjo, Busari Olanrewaju and Samson Okuneye – in a joint statement yesterday, said operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission wanted to stop them (lawyers) from being a part of the search.
They said the operatives allowed them into the house after they had engaged them in arguments.
The counsels added that the EFCC officers seized their phones before the tour of the house began.
In the statement, the lawyers said, “Before they entered, we searched all the officials of the EFCC who intended to go in for the search.
“There was a blue bag which they were holding with them.
“We requested to see the content of the bag before they could take it in.
“They got angry and said we could not see the content.
“Having said that, we strongly resisted them from taking it in since they would not allow us to see it; they later agreed.
“We later got to know that the bag contained foreign currency which they brought to plant in the house of the ex-governor to incriminate him.”
The lawyers noted that the operatives, while collecting their phones, had insisted that only one of their (EFCC) men would record the process with a phone.
They claimed that in the end, nothing incriminating was found in Ambode’s house except some documents, including the State Executive Exco Meetings Volumes 1-16.
The counsel explained that the anti-graft officers were stopped from taking the documents away because they refused to take records of the items.
“We followed them as they entered from one place to the other.
“When our presence was intimidating them, they said we should sit down while they do the search.
“We insisted that we must follow them to observe every of their activities on the premises.
“To our greatest consternation, the officials of the EFCC, led by Rotimi Oyedepo, Esq, held on to our phones and told us to follow them to their office in Ikoyi to get our phones.
“All efforts to get back our phones were abortive, as the officials rushed into their white Hiace bus with our phones and instructed that since we had resisted their efforts to take the said blue bag into the main premises of the ex-governor, they would hold on to the phones.
“Thus, almost six phones were forcefully taken away, iPhones inclusive,” the statement added.
The lawyers claimed that their presence throughout the search stopped the EFCC from incriminating Ambode “with the blue bag they brought with them from an unknown destination.”
They said they were ready to challenge the legality of the search on the residence.
Leader of the EFCC operatives, Oyedepo, when contacted by our Correspondent, said the Commission would “resolve the matter” and issue a formal statement on the allegation.
“But I want to assure you that nothing like that happened,” Rotimi Oyedepo said.
In its reaction to the claim by the lawyers, the commission yesterday denied the allegations, saying there was no attempt to plant currencies in Ambode’s house.
In a statement by its Head, Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren denied the allegations.
The statement reads: The attempt by Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to execute a search warrant on the residence of a former Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode was on Tuesday August 20, 2019 resisted by hoodlums loyal to the governor.
“The thugs attacked the Operatives and vandalized their vehicle.
“The Commission had obtained valid warrant to conduct search on Ambode’s residences in Park View, Ikoyi and country home in Epe, as part of ongoing investigation of alleged malfeasance.
“However, the Commission’s operatives were attacked and prevented from executing the search warrant in Epe by irate youths who injured three officers and damaged EFCC official vehicle.
“The attack was totally unprovoked as the Commission’s operatives were civic and did not molest anybody.
“The Commission, therefore, frowns at the attempt to manipulate the video of the search to create the wrong impression that officers of the agency molested residents at the Epe home of the governor.
“It is also not true that the search, was an attempt to plant foreign currencies in the home of the former governor.”
Meanwhile, the attempt by Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to execute a search warrant on the residence of a former Governor of Lagos State, AkinwunmiAmbode was yesterday, August 20, 2019, resisted by hoodlums loyal to the governor.
The Head, Media, and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, in a statement revealed that the thugs attacked the Operatives and vandalized their vehicle.
“The Commission had obtained a valid warrant to conduct a search on Ambode’s residences in Park View, Ikoyi and country home in Epe, as part of an ongoing investigation of alleged malfeasance.

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Buhari Bars Ministers From Direct Contact With Him …As Ministers Take Oath, Today

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With the end of the two-day retreat hosted by President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, the President is now set to inaugurate his cabinet, today.
The 43 ministers-designate were recently screened and confirmed by the Dr Ahmed Lawan-led Ninth Senate.
The ministers include, Hon Uche Oga (Abia), Dr Chris Ngige and Mrs Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra), Dr Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi),Mr Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu),Chief Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba (Imo) and Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).
Others are Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Sunday Dare, Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Pauline Tallen (Plateau), Adamu Adamu, among others.
In his closing remarks at the two-day Presidential Retreat for the incoming ministers at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Buhari told the new cabinet members to be conscious of the fact that four years was not a long time.
He told the incoming ministers to submit any request meant for him to his Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari and all executive matters to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
The President also charged the ministers-designate who are expected to be inaugurated, today, to work collaboratively and purposefully so as to achieve quicker results.
He told the new ministers to make sure that they engage and benefit from the experience of the older ministers and former governors in the cabinet.
According to him, “In terms of coordination, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channelled through the Chief of Staff, while all Federal Executive Council matters be coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“Public service is not easy work, and at times it can be thankless. I am therefore charging you all to see this opportunity to serve as an honour, to give your best to deliver on this mandate, for a more prosperous Nigeria, not for some, but for all Nigerians.
“You will find that working collaboratively and purposefully will enable us to achieve quicker results, recognizing that four years is not a very long time.
“For the new ministers, make sure you engage and benefit from the experience of the older ministers and former governors in the cabinet. After two days, we have come to the end of a successful retreat. However, you will agree that our work is just beginning.”
The President said that the last two days of the retreat had been very instructive for him personally, because he had had the opportunity to know many of the new ministers-designate better.
He further said that he was pleased to see that they have all equally enjoyed debating and deliberating on the various challenges before them over the next four years.
He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, majority of our people are poor and are anxiously hoping for a better life. A Nigeria in which they do not have to worry about what they will eat, where they will live or if they can afford to pay for their children’s education or healthcare.
“Our responsibility as leaders of this great country is to meet these basic needs for our people. As I mentioned yesterday, this administration inherited many challenges from our predecessors to mention a few: “A country in which 18 local governments in the Northeast were under the control of Boko Haram; decayed infrastructure in which our rail lines and roads had severely deteriorated; a rent seeking economy that depended largely on oil revenues and imports; and significant unpaid pensions, subsidy debts, legacy contractor debts. I can go on and on.
“In our first term, we laid the foundation to rebuild our country. We recaptured those 18 local governments previously held by Boko Haram, whose activities are now limited to sporadic attacks against soft targets.
“Our investments in road and rail infrastructure are without precedent, and many of you can attest to this. We also focused on diversifying the economy from oil towards agriculture and industrialization. Despite reduced revenues from oil and gas compared to past governments, we have broadly addressed many of the legacy debts they left behind.”
He said while the government has obvious successes to celebrate, the challenges ahead as observed within the two days of the exercise were significant.
But he said, “Nevertheless, from the quality of the deliberations, it is clear that solutions to our problems are well researched and have been well articulated.
“We have discussed solutions relating to addressing Insecurity; Macroeconomic Stability; Agriculture and Food Security; Energy Security for Petroleum products and Electricity; Transportation and Critical Infrastructure; Industrialization and SME Development; Human Capital Development; Social Inclusion; Anti-Corruption; Housing Financing and Consumer Credit.”
Buhari commended the Office of the SGF for coordinating the successful Presidential Retreat, adding, “I would also like to thank the National Assembly leadership, the Party Chairman, Chairman of the Governors Forum, and resource firms, for the active engagements and contributions.
“Once again, the challenges that lie ahead of us as a country are significant. But I have no doubt in your individual capacities and our collective patriotic commitment to deliver a better Nigeria for us, our children and a brighter future for all.”
Presenting what he described as the summary of the retreat and key next steps, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha said the incoming cabinet members had spent the past two days agreeing to and prioritizing the key strategic initiatives required to drive accelerated economic growth in the country as well as the critical enablers required for seamless execution.
He also said that it was also agreed on the appropriate Key Performance Indicators, KPls and measures of success for each initiative.
He said, “Some of the agreements from our deliberations include: Consolidate and accelerate on the agricultural agenda to achieve full food sufficiency Increase revenue, implement measures to reduce leakages and drive cost optimisation. Ensure effective coordination between monetary and fiscal policy.
“Invest in human capital development with strong focus on early education and health insurance; facilitate investment in oil and gas sector by ensuring speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and Deep Offshore Oil and Exploration and Production Bill; and resolve the liquidity challenge in power sector and facilitate private sector investment.

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