Garba Mohammed heads presidential election tribunal
Following the suspension of Ayo Salami as President of the Court of Appeal, another judge of the court, Garba Mohammed, on Monday presided over the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
At the resumed hearing of the tribunal yesterday, Mr Mohammed, who assumed the role of the presiding chairman of the tribunal, adjourned indefinitely ruling on the application by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), asking it to enter judgment in its favour over alleged failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow it unfettered access to ballot papers and other electoral materials used in the April presidential election.
The CPC is seeking to be declared winner of the April 16, 2011 presidential election, following the alleged refusal of INEC to grant the party access to sensitive electoral materials, in order to substantiate their allegation that the election was rigged in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan.
At the hearing yesterday, counsel to CPC, Oladipo Okpoyesi, asked the tribunal to enter judgment in its favour over INEC’s failure to comply with the tribunal’s directive to grant the party access to electoral materials.
But in INEC’s counter affidavit, the commission said if the CPC were allowed access to the database, it would technically contravene the rights of the voters under the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Nigerian Constitution as a whole.
Also in opposition, counsel to Mr Jonathan and Namadi Sambo, Alex Izinyon, and counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Joe Gadzama, insisted that the order of court was “for simplicita access, and not opening of software”. Mr Izinyon cited Section 125 (3) of the Electoral Act and paragraph 42 (5b) of the first schedule to the Act, to buttress the fact that access to INEC’s biometric data will compromise national security. He referred to the case of INEC vs AC 2009, 2NWLR, part 1126, p.524 at 618, which he said makes the privacy of the voter sacrosanct.
No judgement in sight
Mr Salami, the suspended chairman of the tribunal, had granted an order compelling INEC to allow the CPC and their forensic experts to have access to all electoral materials to analyse and examine all relevant documents relating to the April presidential poll. The tribunal also ordered INEC to provide CPC with the list of local contractors engaged by the commission to print ballot papers used in the presidential election.
The CPC filed a petition at the tribunal to challenge the result of the April presidential poll, alleging irregularities and non-compliance with the 2010 electoral act. The party is contesting the result of the election in about 20 states of the federation and are to call 151 witnesses to prove its case.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 1st defendant; chairman of INEC, Attahiru Jega (2nd defendant); winner of the election and Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan (3rd defendant); his deputy, Namadi Sambo (4th defendant); the Peoples Democratic Party (5th defendant) and the Resident Electoral Commissioners for the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory, (6th-42nd respondents).
Having listened to submissions by the counsels, Mr Mohammed, who led other three Justices, said “ruling on the motion is hereby reserved and would be delivered on a date to be communicated to counsel.”