Presidential poll: INEC asks tribunal to dismiss Atiku’s petition

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has asked the Presidential Election Petition Court to dismiss the petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer Atiku Abubakar challenging the victory of All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Bola Tinubu.

Atiku who came second after polling 6,984,520 votes in the February 25 Presidential Election, on March 20, dragged the electoral commission and APC’s Tinubu to the election tribunal to contest the outcome of the poll.

INEC had declared Tinubu winner of the presidential election after scoring 8.7 million votes across the 36 states and the FCT.

The two leading candidates, Tinubu and Atiku respectively won 12 states each while Peter Obi of the Labour Party won in 11 states and the FCT. 

Tinubu scored over 25 per cent of the votes cast in 29 states, more than the 24 states constitutionally required.

Although his failure to win 25 per cent in FCT has been a burning issue among other candidates.

The PDP and Atiku, however, are alleging several irregularities including INEC’s failure to upload election results from polling stations in real-time to its IRev portal, electoral malpractices and Tinubu failure to polled 25 per cent of FCT votes.

PDP petition

The petition marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023, has INEC, Tinubu, his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, and the APC as the 1st to 4th respondents.

The petitioners are praying for the tribunal to declare Tinubu as not duly elected with a majority of the lawful votes cast and therefore wants Tinubu’s victory nullified. 

Part of the petition read: “The petitioners contend and shall lead evidence to show that contrary to the original design of the BVAS machine to upload data directly to the electronic collation system and the IReV portal, the 1st Respondent contrived and installed an intervening third-party device (Device Management System) which, in its ordinary usage, is meant to secure and administer the 1st Respondent’s technological ecosystem for the elections but as it relates to the presidential election, was used to intercept the results, quarantine and warehouse same, and filter them before releasing same to the IReV portal.

“The 1st Respondent used the said Device Management System to manipulate the election results in favour of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents.”

INEC says PDP petition ‘grossly incompetent’

INEC, in its defence to the PDP petition, filed through its team of lawyers led by A. B. Mahmoud (SAN), described the petition as “grossly incompetent, vague and academic”, noting that it was an abuse of the court process.

The Commission affirmed Tinubu as the winner having scored at least one-quarter of the valid votes cast in 29 states, which is over and above the 24 states threshold required by the Constitution. 

The electoral body said the APC candidate met all the legal requirements to be announced as the winner of the election, arguing that it’s not a must for a candidate to secure 25 per cent votes in the FCT to be declared winner.

It stressed that FCT was not accorded any special status in the Constitution as being “erroneously” portrayed by some political parties and candidates who lost the election.

“The FCT has the status of a state and ought to be recognised as one of the states of the federation,” the petition read.

The Commission argued that the election was conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act.

INEC further stressed that it delivered its promises “in conducting free, fair, transparent and credible elections by deploying the BVAS device in conducting accreditation of voter’s electronically and uploading scanned copies of polling unit election results to the IRev portal”.

According to the Commission, the Electoral Act does not require it to transmit results to the IRev portal before determining or declaring the winner of the presidential election.

“The 1st respondent (INEC) states further that it had all the physical hard copies of the results sheets from which it collated and tabulated the scores of the candidates. It states further that the result sheets were uploaded via its e -transmission system to the IRev portal.

“In further answer to paragraph 21 of the petition, the 1st respondent states that the BVAS device was, despite the glitches experienced on the day of the presidential election, still a game changer.

“It was properly deployed and used to verify and accredit registered voters. It was also used to upload scanned copies of polling unit results through the e-transmission system to the IRev portal in the presidential election held on 25th February 2023.






     

     

    “The 1st respondent further states that the BVAS device was not designed to and did not transmit election results to the phantom Electronic Collation System as alleged by the petitioners.

    “The 1st respondent denies that it prescribed or established a system to electronically transfer or transmit the results and the accreditation data from polling units to an electronic collation system.”

    INEC explained to the Tribunal that the PDP and Abubakar “neither scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election nor scored not less than one-quarter of the lawful votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory and therefore the 1st petitioner (Atiku) is not entitled to be returned as the winner of the presidential election conducted on February 25″.

    The electoral body, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the petition.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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