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Electronic transmission of election results illegal, INEC insists

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A staff member of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) marks the thumb of a voter at a polling unit. PHOTO: STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP

•Presidential poll tribunal entertains final addresses, reserves judgment
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday maintained that there was no extant law backing the electronic transmission of election results and as such, it could not have imported the outcome of the February 23, 2019 presidential poll into a central server as claimed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Making a presentation through its counsel, Yunus Usman (SAN) during the final adoption of addresses by parties in the petition filed by Atiku and the PDP at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) in Abuja, the electoral body insisted that it conducted the contested poll in total compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), adding: “The petitioners can never destroy that.”

The counsel described the petitioners’ position that its client transmitted the results electronically as the “greatest lie of the century.”

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Noting that over 80 political parties participated in the exercise, he stated that it was laughable for Atiku and his party to state that the central server had the results of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP only.

According to him, the Electoral Act prohibits the transmission of results through electronic device.

“There was a bill to that effect at the National Assembly, but it did not see the light of day before the general elections,” he clarified.

On why INEC did not call witnesses during proceedings, Usman held that the electoral umpire had already extracted “damaging pieces of evidence from the witnesses called by the petitioners” and would therefore amount to “a waste of the court’s time to call further witnesses.”

He, subsequently, urged the panel to sustain his objections and strike out the petition, as “there would be nothing to sustain it.”

In his submission, lawyer to the second respondent (President Muhammadu Buhari), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), equally urged the court to dismiss the application for lacking in merit and substance.

He said in all the cases he had handled, he was yet to see a suit of this kind “yawning for evidence and asking heaven for assistance.”

On Buhari’s qualification or otherwise to contest the election, Olanipekun said the issue was settled in law, noting that there was no where in the constitution where it was stated that a certificate must be tendered to qualify for the post of the president.

The legal representative to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), also adopted the processes and relied on them in his argument.

He added that in an attempt to “assail” the 119,973 polling units across the 8,809 wards and 774 local councils, “it was sad that the petitioners could call only 62 witnesses.

“Out of this figure, only five witnesses have direct evidence of what happened in the units.”

On the president’s certificate contestation, Fagbemi submitted that those who set the standard for secondary education as minimum requirement also gave the verdict that what Buhari had was an equivalent to that.

He therefore prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition.

But the attorney to the petitioners, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), expressed sadness that the second respondent chose not to appreciate the issues that were raised with regards to his (Buhari) qualification.

He added that the thrust of the matter was that the president “lied on oath when he stated in his Form CM 001 that his certificates were with the military.”

The notary went further to remind the tribunal that the president “had laid claim to three certificates under different names.”

He also faulted his opponents on the issue of Electoral Act, stressing that the piece of legislation was amended in 2015.

On the issue of server, he said the opposing lawyers ought to have understood the full meaning of server to include computer before denying the use of the device in the conduct of the election.

He therefore urged the court to uphold the petition, having established the fact through evidence tendered in the course of the proceedings.

After entertaining all arguments, the Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal eventually reserved judgment.


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