Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), May Agbamuche-Mbu (left); INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu; and National Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, during a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on the forthcoming governorship elections on March 11, 2023 in Abuja… .
Lawyers react to variation request
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to amend the orders that were granted to candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi respectively, to inspect materials used for the last presidential election.
The Commission, in a motion on notice filed on March 4, is praying the court to vary the order, which restrained it from tampering with materials used for the election.
INEC said it needed to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the next round of elections.
Recall that the appellate court had on March 3, granted leave to Atiku and Obi to inspect election materials used by INEC to conduct the controversial February 25 poll.
The court granted the order sought by the two parties, following two separate ex parte applications filed by Atiku and Obi, who came second and third respectively in the election won by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The application filed by the Commission is asking the court to vary the order to allow it to reconfigure its BVAS for the March 11 governorship and state houses of assembly elections.
Reacting to the variation request, Abuja-based lawyer, Elias Offor, observed: “The court will be engendering injustice and that’s the position. They are actually giving vent to the disintegration of the country because such reason is not tenable in any way. They will tamper with already existing data.
They have to get another one to use for Saturday’s election. You know the polity is heated and they need it for evidence. So, why would they tamper with it? You know, this is technological evidence? The petitioners have to call experts for opinion, serious expert opinion, IT personnel and all that. Experts are to air their views in this whole thing.
“If the data is going to be tampered with, then there is no need using the same one for the next election. They have to provide another one.
“If everything were consistent, we wouldn’t be making this argument. If you had done what you’re supposed to do, then we are not going to be saying this. So, this one is illogical.”
Another attorney, Douglas Ogbankwa, said: “We need to find out the exact details of the variation sought by INEC. The variation sought seems clouded in mystery. It is important we know exactly what is sought to know the level of effect the variation sought will have on Labour Party having access to the electoral materials.
Lagos lawyer, Festus Ogun, noted: “In my opinion, I think the court is functus officio. By making the order, INEC cannot go back to the court, seeking to vary its order, unless they can prove fraud or misrepresentation.
But the argument they are canvassing is that they want to reconfigure the BVAS because of the election coming up over the weekend. Yes.
That is not a case of misrepresentation. Neither is it a case of, you know, fraud. So, I think they are asking the court to vacate this order indirectly.”
Kano based lawyer, Abubakar Sani, however said everybody supposed to have access to court, adding that the question is whether the inspection the petitioners sought to have will impede the function of INEC in conducting the governorship election this Saturday.
“We don’t know whether the court will grant it or not, but if it is the question of access to court, INEC has the constitutional powers to approach the court.
You cannot deny INEC the constitutional right to conduct election. It is there in the constitution. If they need the equipment to conduct the election, you cannot deny them the right. INEC can comply with the order after the election if the nature of the reconfiguration will not tamper with the evidence in the BVAS,” he explained.