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Inspection Of INEC Server, Card Reader: Tribunal Reserves Ruling In Atiku, PDP Request …APC Asks Court To Dismiss Suit

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The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja, yesterday, reserved ruling on the application filed by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for access to inspect the server and data of smart card readers used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the February 23 presidential election.
The presiding justice of the five-man panel, Justice Mohammed Garba, reserved date for ruling in the application shortly after the counsel in the matter adopted and argued their brief of arguments in the suit.
Garba said the panel would communicate the date of the ruling to the parties’ lead counsel once they are ready.
In moving the motion for inspection of the INEC server and other electoral materials, one of the lead counsel to Atiku and the PDP, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), said the request is essential to their petition challenging the return of President Muhammadu Buhari at the election.
The petitioners had in their petition stated that by the figures obtained from INEC’s server, they and not Buhari and the third respondent, All Progressives Congress (APC), won the presidential election held on February, 23 this year.
According to the figures allegedly obtained from the server, Atiku said he scored 18,356,732 votes as against that of Buhari, whom he said polled 16,741,430.
Uche told the tribunal that the inspection of the server and data is necessary in the interest of justice, transparency and neutrality on the part of the first respondent, INEC.
Responding, the lawyer to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), vehemently opposed the application for inspection on the grounds that the Court of Appeal had on March 6 refused the prayers of the petitioners to inspect INEC server and smart card readers.
He maintained that the court having refused the prayers lacked jurisdiction to revisit the same application.
Usman therefore urged the tribunal to dismiss the application, adding that: “We do not have server.”
The lead counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and that of the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), also made similar argument in opposing the application for inspection.
Olanipekun told the tribunal that it lacks jurisdiction to overule itself, while Fagbemi urged the tribunal to be wary of making an order which it is not capable of enforcing, because INEC has said it has no server.
Consequently, Justice Garba announced that the ruling in the application is reserved to a date to be communicated to parties and adjourned the pre-hearing of Atiku and PDP’s petition till June 24.
Earlier, the tribunal heard the motions filed by INEC, President Buhari and APC urging it to dismiss the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Oworu, for being incompetent and abuse of court processes.
Olanipekun, in his argument, said that there was no petition filed by the party before the tribunal because what was served on the respondents is a petition against referendum which the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain.
The tribunal however reserved ruling to a date to be communicated to parties in the suit and adjourned the pre-hearing of the HDP’s petition till June 23.
Atiku, who is the presidential candidate of the PDP in the February 23 presidential election and his party are among the three other political parties and their presidential candidates currently seeking the nullification of President Buhari’s victory at the presidential poll.
The forth petitioner, Geff Ojinaka and his party, Coalition for Change (C4C), had without reason on June 10, applied to withdraw their petition against the election of Buhari.
The application, which was not objected to by the respondents in the suit, was accordingly dismissed, leaving that of the PDP, Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and the Peoples Democratic Movement and that of their candidates.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday prayed the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to strike out Atiku Abubakar’s petition against President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election because the former vice president “is not a Nigerian by birth.”
Mr Abubakar, a former vice president, contested the February 23 general election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The presidential candidate of the PDP and his party approached the tribunal seeking his declaration as the rightful winner of the election.
Lateef Fagbemi, Counsel to the APC made the call while responding to the petitioners’ motion seeking the striking out of APC’s reply to the petition.
“My Lord, I am opposing this application on the qualification of the first petitioner (Abubakar). I am standing by the proof we have supplied in our reply.
“The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Feb.23 presidential election was not qualified to contest the election in the first place.
“I therefore, pray the tribunal to strike out the petitioners’ application for lacking in competence and merit,’’ Mr Fagbemi said.
The third respondent (APC) insisted that Mr Abubakar was not a citizen of Nigeria by birth and ought not to have even been allowed in the first place to contest the election.
Counsel for the petitioners, Chris Uche, argued that historic records showed that the former vice president was a citizen of Nigeria by birth.
Mr Uche, therefore, urged the panel to discountenance Mr Fagbemi’s submission by granting the application.
The motion filed by the petitioners seeking access to inspect the server and other election materials used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was also heard.
Mr Uche had told the tribunal to grant the application as doing so would be in the interest of justice and transparency.
Our source reports that the application was vehemently objected to by all the counsel to the respondents.
On his part, Yunus Usman, SAN, counsel for INEC, said the application was dead before arrival, adding that the electoral body did not collect the results of the election through a server.
“My Lord, the commission did not deploy such technology infrastructure in the last general election,’’ he said.
Wole Olanipekun, counsel for Mr Buhari said the application was laughable, adding that the Court of Appeal in Abuja had ruled against similar application brought to it by the same parties.
“We also wanted such information if the technology was used, but our application demanding access to the server was dismissed. We have attached the enrolled order in our reply,’’ Mr Olanipekun said.
Similarly, Mr Fabgemi, counsel for APC aligned himself to the argument advanced by Messrs Usman and Olanipekun, adding, however, that no provisions in the country’s statute books allowed the request made by the petitioners.
The APC had particularly faulted the claim by the petitioners that they obtained the authentic results of the election from a server maintained by INEC showing that they won.
The electoral body on February 27 announced the second respondent (Buhari) of the APC winner of the election scoring 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, with 11,262,978 votes.
However, the PDP in an affidavit claimed that its candidate instead polled a total of 18,356,732 votes defeating Buhari who scored 16,741,430 votes.
Justice Mohammed Garba reserved ruling on the motions.
The judge went ahead to adjourn further proceedings on the petition until June 24.
HDP’s case
In another development, nine motions and counter affidavits were adopted and argued in the petition by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Albert Owuru, instituted against Mr Buhari’s re-election.
Oliver Eya, Counsel for the petitioners had urged the tribunal to cancel the February 23 presidential election on account of alleged deceit by INEC.
Mr Eya explained that shift in the date of the election from February 16 was a clear ploy by the commission to encourage electoral fraud.
He also submitted that the petitioners had conducted a nationwide referendum on February 16 and won the election.
Mr Eya, therefore, prayed the tribunal to grant the motion and go ahead to also declare his clients as winners of the election.
The application came under heavy fire by counsel to the respondents.
Mr Usman, counsel to INEC said the motion was incompetent for failing to include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a party to the suit.
Mr Usman also said that the reasons for the shift in the date of the election was discussed with all stakeholders and approved by them before the commission went ahead to announce it.
Justice Garba adjourned hearing in the petition until June 20.
Also, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has said that an administration that cannot deliver on its promises of change and has rendered the country almost comatose cannot be a true friend of June 12 struggle.
In a statement issued in Abuja to mark Democracy Day, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February election said it is not enough to declare June 12 Democracy Day.
He noted that the significance of the celebration of June 12, 1993, Presidential Election is a reminder of the nation’s history to becoming a democratic country.
His statement added: “On this day twenty-six years ago, Nigeria voted for democracy against the jackboot notion of oppressive totalitarianism.
“The collective decision by Nigerians to elect democracy on that day was not to aggrandize the political elite or to replace the military dictatorship with civilian autocracy. No! The choice of democracy was to restore power to the people.
“Suffice it to state that the idea of June 12 is not merely to declare it as a Democracy Day – much as celebratory and commendable it might seem. The idea behind the event of June 12, 1993, embodies something much more bigger than that.
“It was a threshold moment in our national life that demands of us as democrats to do a soul searching and ask the salient question of all time: how better off are Nigerians?
“It is not enough to declare June 12 a Democracy Day when the government of the day is disrespectful of the rule of law and wantonly disregards court orders on issues that border on fundamental human rights.

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Trans-Kalabari Road: Banigo, Stakeholders Condemn Abduction Of Expatriate

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Kalabari traditional rulers and stakeholders have condemned the recent abduction of an expatriate staff of Lubric Construction Company working on the Trans-Kalabari Road.
Speaking at a meeting at the Government House in Port Harcourt, last Friday, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo said she was deeply pained by the unfortunate incident carried out by unknown miscreants.
According to the deputy governor, who said that the State Chief Executive Officer, Nyesom Wike, was desirous to bring more development projects to Kalabari Kingdom, regretted that this act was capable of discouraging him.
“I want to reiterate that our governor is very desirous to do more developmental projects in our communities, there are many more things he has in the card to do for us, and if we allow this ugly thing to surface, that attitude will discourage him”, the deputy governor noted.
Banigo, who said that perpetrators of the heinous crime did not drop from the sky, insisted that they were community people, and must be fished out and dealt with decisively, while calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the abductee.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, expressed regrets that a project as important as the Trans-Kalabari Road would be tampered with by persons who do not mean well for the Kalabari people.
“If their intention is to run down the good works of our dear governor, over a project which the Kalabari people have been yearning for over the years, then, I am sure God Almighty will not allow them to get away with this dastardly act of kidnapping one expatriate”, Alabraba stressed.
Alabraba further said, “It is important that we talk to ourselves and ensure that everything possible is done to ensure immediate release of the victim, and ensure that measures are put in place to forestall this type of thing in the future”.
Presenting a seven-point communique, Amanyanabo of Minama, King Iboroma Talbot Pokubo, who represented the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disreal Gbobo Bobmanuel, demanded for the immediate and unconditional release of the expatriate, and reassured Governor Wike of their unwavering support for the governor.

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Buhari Approves Incorporation Of NNPC, Appoints Board Members

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President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited be incorporated.
He also approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as chairman.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, was appointed chief executive officer.
This was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, saying that the president acted in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, has directed the incorporation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
“This is in consonance with Section 53(1) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, which requires the Minister of Petroleum Resources to cause for the incorporation of the NNPC Limited within six months of commencement of the Act in consultation with the Minister of Finance on the nominal shares of the company.
“The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Mele Kolo Kyari, has, therefore, been directed to take necessary steps to ensure that the incorporation of the NNPC Limited is consistent with the provisions of the PIA 2021.
“Also, by the power vested in him under Section 59(2) of the PIA 2021, President Buhari has approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited, with effect from the date of incorporation of the company.
“Chairman of the board is Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, while Mele Kolo Kyari and Umar I. Ajiya are chief executive officer, and chief financial officer, respectively.
“Other board members are; Dr Tajudeen Umar (North-East); Mrs Lami O. Ahmed (North-Central); Mallam Mohammed Lawal (North-West); Senator Margaret Chuba Okadigbo (South-East), Barrister Constance Harry Marshal (South-South); and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South-West).”

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Reject Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request, SERAP Tells NASS

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; to reject the fresh request by President Muhammadu Buhari, to borrow $4billion and €710million.
SERAP said if such request must be granted, the Federal Government should publish details of spending of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015.
The group also expressed fear that if the fresh request is granted, it may take Nigeria’s to over N35trillion.
Buhari recently sought the approval of the National Assembly to borrow $4,054,476,863 and €710million, on the grounds of “emerging needs.”
The request was contained in a letter dated August 24, 2021.
In an open letter dated September 18, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”
SERAP said, “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.
“The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.
“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.
“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education”, SERAP added.

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