UPDATE: Supreme Court turns down Atiku’s request to inspect INEC server

We will prove our case at Tribunal, says Atiku

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to grant a request by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the February 23, 2019, general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, seeking to inspect the central server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The apex court held that the request could not be granted because it was brought by Atiku after the parties have joined issues on the existence or otherwise of the server.

According to the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Centus Nweze, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), sitting in Abuja was in order in refusing to grant Atiku’s request at the time it was made so as not to prejudice other parties in the matter.

In addition, the apex court held that the appeal filed by Atiku and his party lacked merit because they failed to prove how the decision of the tribunal was unfair to then.

Justice Nweze said a party can only complain of the lack of fair hearing when discretion of court was wrongly or arbitrarily used by the court, adding that in this instant case the tribunal used its discretion judicially and judiciously.

“I see no reason to depart from the decision of the lower court, the appeal is lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed,” Justice Nweze said.

However, the PDP candidate said there was no cause for alarm in the decision of the apex court as it relates to his petition at the tribunal.

Atiku who spoke through his lead counsel at Tuesday’s proceedings, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) said that this kind of decision was anticipated and that proactive action had been taken during the hearing of the petition.

Jegede said that the issue of the server which was aimed at establishing that the election was rigged during the collation of results was thoroughly addressed through witnesses and documents tendered and admitted during the presentation of the petition.

He expressed optimism that the tribunal would do justice at the end of the day.

Atiku had approached the Supreme Court praying for an order to set aside the decision of the tribunal which refused to compel INEC to allow him have access to the central server allegedly used in the conduct of the presidential poll.

Jegede told the five-man panel of justices of the apex court led by Justice Mohammed Datijo, that access to the INEC’s central server is germane to the joint petition of Atiku and PDP and urged the court to grant the request of the appellants by ordering the electoral body to allow access to its database.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) asked the court to turn down the request and to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the appeal has become academic.

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Olanipekun drew the attention of the court to the fact that the life of the appeal will expire tomorrow and even if the request is granted it will serve no purpose to the two petitioners since they have long closed their case.

Olanipekun further told the court that parties will, on Wednesday adopt their final written addresses at the tribunal after which a judgment date will be fixed.

The position of Olanipekun was, however, adopted by counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN) and that of the APC Charles Edosamwam.

It would be recalled that the tribunal, in a ruling delivered on June 24 refused to grant the request of the petitioners on the grounds that doing so would amount to admitting the existence of the ‘controversial INEC central server’.

The tribunal in its ruling delivered by its Chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba further held that granting the application would be prejudice to the respondents in the petition.

Dissatisfied, the petitioners approached the Supreme Court to upturn the decision.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the apex court struck out another appeal by Atiku and the PDP following the withdrawal of the same by the two appellants.

At the resumed hearing of the appeal, counsel to the appellants, Eyitayo Jegede, informed the court that the appeal, having not been argued within 21 days allowed by law has become statute-barred.

The appeal SC/738/2019 was seeking to upturn the decision of the tribunal which held that the petitioners lost their right of objection to the APC’s application seeking the dismissal of their petition or expunge some parts of the petition having not filed a reply within the time prescribed by the law.

The withdrawal was not opposed by the respondents including INEC, Buhari and the APC.

Accordingly, presiding Justice of the five-man panel, Justice Mohammed Datijo struck out the appeal.

Meanwhile, parties in the petition will today adopt their final written addresses to state their respective positions in the petition challenging the declaration of Buhari as the winner of the February 23 presidential election.

The tribunal is expected to announce a date for its decision after parties must have adopted their final addresses on Wednesday.

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