Obi, LP refusing to pay N1.5m to access documents requested, INEC tells tribunal



The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) says the Labour
Party (LP) and Peter Obi, the presidential candidate, have refused to pay the
N1.5 million demanded to access documents they are requesting.


Abubakar Mahmoud, counsel to INEC, spoke at the sitting of
the presidential election petitions court on Wednesday.


Mahmoud was responding to claims by Levy Uzoukwu, counsel to
the party and its candidate, that the commission has refused to release
necessary documents requested by them to present as evidence in the suit
challenging the outcome of the presidential election.



Uzoukwu told the five-member panel of the court led by
Haruna Tsammani, that INEC “stubbornly refused to produce 70 percent of the
electoral documents that were requested”.


Specifically, Uzoukwu said electoral documents concerning
the polls in Rivers and Sokoto states have been inaccessible.

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For Sokoto state, Uzoukwu said the INEC officials demanded
N1.5 million fee to process the documents.


 “A typical example is
that of Rivers state, where the resident electoral commissioner boldly told us
they do not have any form EC8A to give us,” the senior advocate said.


The lawyer said five letters have been sent to INEC
alongside orders of the court made on March 3 and March 8 directing the
electoral umpire to grant the petitioners access to inspect relevant electoral
materials and make copies of them.




Responding to the allegation, INEC’s lawyer said 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, May 15, 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.

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He said the 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,” Mahmoud


The INEC counsel also said the representatives of the
petitioners staged a walkout on the second day.


Lateef Fagbemi, APC’s lead lawyer,  aligned with INEC’s position concerning
access to electoral documents.


Fagbemi said he would not be objecting to official documents
tendered by INEC during the substantive hearing.


 “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,” he said.

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“We are ready and willing to cooperate with the court.”


Also, Wole Olanipekun, Tinubu’s lawyer, said he had no
issues with accessing documents from the electoral umpire.


“We will reserve our objection to documents until the end of
the trial,” Olanipekun said.


After listening to all parties in the petition, the court
adjourned proceedings until  May 19.


The court asked lawyers in the suit to respond to all
pending applications before the next adjourned date.


The court also reminded parties that the pre-hearing session
is to last 14 days from the day of its commencement.


The court began its pre-hearing session on May 8.