The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, has told the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stubbornly refused to produce 70 percent of the electoral documents he requested for the prosecution of his petition.
Obi who came third in the February 25 presidential election is challenging the conduct and outcome of the polls at the tribunal.
He told the tribunal at Wednesday’s hearing session that the election was manipulated in favour of the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
His lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzougwu, SAN, specifically told the Justice Haruna Tsammani five- member election tribunal that he could not access documents used for the election in Rivers and Sokoto States.
Obi who was present in court at the pre-hearing session lamented that the electoral body demanded a huge fee of N1.5m to process election materials from Sokoto state.
Uzougwu told the tribunal that “in the case of Rivers State, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) bodly told us they do not have any form EC8 to give us.”
He drew the attention of the court to two previous rulings directing INEC to grant access to Labour Party for the inspection of electoral documents like the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines that were deployed for the conduct of the presidential poll.
In one of such rulings, the Court had on March 3 and 8 directed the electoral body to make available certified true copies of result sheets and other data obtained from the BVAS machines to tender same to aid the petitioner’s case.
Uzoukwu equally referred to five separate letters that were written to INEC chairman, Yakubu Mahmood, requesting that access be granted to inspect and obtain relevant electoral documents to strengthen the petitioner’s suit at the court.
However, counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), who denied the allegations, said his client was ready to cooperate with all parties in the petitions and the court.
He told the court that Obi’s legal team declined to attend a meeting that was called to streamline issues around documents to be tendered before the court.
“We agreed to meet on Monday and Tuesday (15 and 16 May). But on Monday, 15 May, I received a call that the Labour Party legal team had not turned up at the venue for the inspection of the documents,” Mahmoud told the court.
Mahmoud explained that LP was given some electoral documents in Rivers, “but they insisted on collecting all the documents that were required.
“The commission has not refused to produce any document,” Mr Mahmoud said.
But quickly, Obi’s counsel, Uzougwu responded that his team did not walkout of the meeting.
It was the turn of the APC,whose lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, agreed with INEC’s position regarding access to electoral documents.
“All public documents coming from INEC and duly certified will not be objected to, but other documents may be objected to with reasons given and arguments presented at the end of the day before judgement.
“We are ready and willing to cooperate with the court,” Fagbemi assured.
On his part, lead counsel to Tinubu, Wole Olanipekun, said he had no issues accessing documents from the electoral umpire.
“We will reserve our objection to documents until the end of the trial,” Mr Olanipekun said.
After listening to all parties in the petition, the court adjourned proceedings until 19 May.