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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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2019 Rivers Guber Poll Tribunal: PDP Tenders Polling Units’ Results To Affirm Wike’s Victory …Election Held In Substantial Compliance With Electoral Act -Counsel …Conduct Of Poll Peaceful, Lawful, Akawor Affirms

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, yesterday, tendered strategic polling units’ results from different local government areas to the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal to justify the re-election of Governor Nyesom Wike.
The polling units’ results were tendered in respect of the petition filed against the election of Wike by the Governorship Candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr Victor Fingesi.
Tendering the polling units’ results from the Bar, counsel to the PDP, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) said the polling results were from 356 polling units.
Obla told the tribunal that the result sheets were from some of the polling units in Obio/Akpor, Khana, Ogu/Bolo, Bonny, Akuku-Toru, Ahoada East, Opobo/Nkoro and others.
He informed the tribunal that the PDP resolved to tender results to prove that elections held across the state at the polling units and declarations made under very peaceful atmosphere.
The counsel added that since INEC and Wike have called witnesses to prove that the Governorship Election was conducted in line with the Electoral Act, the PDP chose to prove the conduct of the elections through documentary evidence.
Addressing journalists after closing the PDP defence, Godwin Obla said that from documentary evidence and oral testimonies of witnesses, it was clear that the 2019 Governorship Election in Rivers State was held in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and that Wike emerged victorious.
He said: “This morning on behalf of the 3rd respondent, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), we tendered a total of 356 exhibits in support of our case. We feel satisfied that the requirements of the law required of us, have been fully met and that is why we decided to close our case today.
“Don’t forget that the 1st respondent, INEC, called witnesses, the 2nd respondent, Governor Nyesom Wike, who is the candidate of the 3rd respondent, PDP, also called witnesses and tendered a lot of documents that relate to this same subject matter. The interests of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents are actually the same”.
Also speaking, counsel to ADP, Mr Dolapo-Telle Attoni, said “The PDP presented from the Bar a bundle of electoral documents they claimed INEC used in conducting the governorship election. They tendered about 356 alleged polling units’ results. We had asked for few minutes to study these same documents, and also obtain Certified True Copy of the said documents which was not complied with by INEC”.
Following the PDP closing its case, the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal has adjourned till September 16, 2019 for the adoption of addresses by parties in the petition filed by Action Democratic Party and its governorship candidate, Mr Victor Fingesi.
Earlier, the Director-General of Rivers State PDP Campaign Council, Amb. Desmond Akawor, had said that the 2019 Governorship Election held throughout the state with Governor Nyesom Wike emerging victorious.
Testifying at the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, last Wednesday, as the last witness for Wike in a petition filed by the candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr Victor Fingesi, Akawor said that the governor won the election by the lawful votes cast on March 9, 2019.
The former Nigerian Ambassador to South Korea told the tribunal that he received his party’s duplicate certified copies of election result sheets for all the units, wards and the 23 local government areas.
Responding to a question by counsel to the ADP governorship candidate on why the state government set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 Elections, Akawor said that the commission of inquiry was established to find out what happened at the collation centres, because voting took place peacefully at all polling units.
However, after closing his case on cross-examination of DW31 (Akawor), the ADP counsel sought to tender an application which is a certified copy of The Tide Newspaper of April 29 in respect of the commission of inquiry.
But Counsel to the governor, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) urged the court to refuse the application, arguing that the petitioner voluntarily closed his matter on July 16 with 23 witnesses.
Ukala noted that in accordance with the rules of the tribunal, each witness was cross-examined within the time given; adding that conduct of proceedings was guided by truth and not by sympathy.
Ruling on the application after hearing arguments from the counsels, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Orjiako, stated that “this application in our view cannot be allowed, the implication being that it should have been tendered within the time allocated to him, therefore, the application is overruled and refused”.
Justice Orjiako had adjourned the matter till yesterday for further cross examination.
In an interview, counsel for Governor Nyesom Wike, Emmanuel Ukala, explained that the ADP application was refused as a result of improper filing.
He said, “The 2nd respondent (Governor Wike) called all together 20 witnesses, and we closed our case. So, it is left to the PDP, if they wish to call any other witness. They may call, and thereafter, we will all address the court”.

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Stop Deducting Money From Rivers Statutory Allocation, Court Orders FG

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court in respect of OML112 offshore and stop the deduction of the sum of N502, 298,943.03 or any sum whatsoever, forming the proprietary rights of the Rivers State Government.
The presiding Judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, also ordered the defendants to make full refund of the accruable 13 per cent derivation illegally denied the plaintiff from crude oil and gas production within OML 112 and sale from September, 2018 till the determination of the suit; and thereafter.
The judge equally ordered the Attorney General of the Federation, the Accountant General of the Federation and the RMAFC to pay monthly interests at the various commercial rates at no less than 15 per cent per annum on the illegally deducted 13 per cent derivation due to the plaintiff from OML 112 until the liquidation of all outstanding and accruing debt.
Justice Taiwo further restrained the defendants, their agents, assigns, representatives, privies or howsoever called from disregarding the finality of the Supreme Court judgment delivered on March 18, 2011 in Suit No: SC/27/2010, between: Attorney General of Rivers State and Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State & Anor as it relates to the proprietary rights of the plaintiff in respect of OML 112.
The suit was instituted by the Attorney General of Rivers State to challenge the deduction of the sum of N502, 298,943.03 accruing from OML 112 from the statutory allocation of the state by the defendants.

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Biafra: Fresh Questions Over Future Of Campaign

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Just as the recent physical attack on former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu in faraway Germany is trending globally for the bizarre affront it represents, so many questions are raging over the integrity and future of the campaign for the actualisation of the Biafra secessionist agenda. It is no more news that Ekweremadu was ambushed and attacked during his visit to Germany to participate as a guest speaker at a traditional Igbo ‘New Yam’ festival. The trailing reactions not only captured the wide divide between the proponents and the opponents of the ‘Biafra’ agenda across the world. It also betrayed and reinforced a more profound aspect being the unmasked, hysteric xenophobic mindset to which the most ardent proponents of the Biafra agenda subscribe to. Primary among these is the endorsement of the outrage of the assailants by Nnamdi Kanu, the now exiled leader of the IPOB, which is just one of the active groups canvassing for the actualisation of the Biafra dream.
From the now trending video clips of the incident,the aggrieved assailants could be heard lamenting about the killing of their kit and kin in the ‘Operation Python Dance’ military assaults on Iboland, at the peak of the IPOB domestic activism phase. Until that point, the German assault on Ekweremadu could easily have passed as a result of the bereaved lamenting and perhaps, over-reacting over the death of their loved ones at home. However, the intervention of IPOB especially with the claim that responsibility for the attack fell on its members changed the entire narrative. First of all, information in the public domain did not specifically mention that the occasion was organised by IPOB. Hence, the intervention of the organisation by persons later identified as IPOB operatives captures the event as having been hijacked by the IPOB for reasons strange to the organisers. Now, the blame or whatever ascription from the event goes to all Ibos, just as the proverb that when a finger picks up oil, it soon spreads it to all the other fingers.
And this is where the various stakeholders of the Biafra agenda, comprising the Igbo represented by the OhanaezeNdigbo, the Eastern minorities and even the entire country need to take the Ekweremadu attack with appropriate discretion. Whatever circumstances that will instigate members of a political pressure group to leave the shores of its home country and brazenly attack a home government official in public glare and in a foreign country, deserves more than a slap on the wrist. The situation calls for renewed discretion especially by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo which can be credited with the misfortune of living in a hut on which roof a snake has climbed. That is putting it in classical Igbo metaphor.
For anybody especially the leadership of the Ibos to see the situation otherwise, is to indulge in a mis-read of the festering situation, and expose Ndigbo to a future of miasma in the politics of Iboland as well as that between Ndigbo and the rest of the country. IPOB may remain a most divisive factor in the political calculus of the Ndigbo both at home and abroad as has been dramatically demonstrated in the German attack on Ike Ekweremadu, both for now and in the unknown future. And against the backdrop that not all Ibos and even Ohanaeze are members of IPOB, the need for the group to tread with care becomes most acute. Most Ibos simply want to be left alone to pursue their legitimate businesses in which they are already excelling, and do not want to be bothered by a pie in the sky called Biafra. After all, was it not the great novelist, Chinua Achebe who cited the Ibo proverb that all lizards lie on the ground making it difficult to know which one has stomach pain.
As for the Eastern minorities whose youth especially are being enamoured with flashes of paradise in the Biafra dream, all that needs to be said is that they should go and study the history of the previous Biafra, which occurred before they were even born. They will find out not only why it failed, but also why the mainstream of Ibo intelligentsia is not supporting the campaign – at least spiritedly. Fortunately for them, there are still some survivors of that failed exercise who can provide them valuable insights, to lead them aright. On a cautionary basis, let it be stated here that a child found toying with the very strain of mushrooms that killed his or her parents, is asking for nothing better than the very fate that befell the parents.
As structured today, the Nigerian federation cannot be restructured along secessionist lines without elaborate dialogue and negotiations, in place of a full scale war, no matter the grievances of its component ethnic parts. Meanwhile, IPOB has not demonstrated willingness or capacity for negotiations and the rest of the country is not ready for war. Until further notice therefore, Biafra and all it represents remain hanging in the balance.

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