President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has approached the Court of Appeal, seeking an order to access sensitive materials used by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the presidential election. With 8,794,726 votes, Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared winner of the February 25 poll ahead of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who polled 6,984,520 votes, and Peter Obi, candidate of the Labour Party (LP), who secured 6,101,533 votes. At the court session, yesterday, the President-elect, through his lawyer, Akintola Makinde, said he would need to inspect, scan and make photocopies of some of the electoral materials to enable him to prepare his defence against petitions that would seek to nullify his election. “The materials will be relevant in helping us to prepare our defence and also make comparison with the information contained in INEC’s back-end server,” Makinde said. In the first ex parte application, LP, Obi and INEC are the respondents. In the second application, PDP and Atiku are cited as respondents, alongside INEC. The two main opposition parties, on Friday, secured leave of the court to have access to all sensitive materials used by INEC in the conduct of the election. The court had restrained INEC from tampering with the BVAS machines. The same day, INEC approached the court seeking permission to reconfigure details on the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines in preparation for this Saturday’s governorship and States House of Assembly elections. The Court of Appeal serves as the tribunal for hearing the presidential election dispute. The appellate court presided over by a three-member panel led by Joseph Ikyegh, has, however, fixed a ruling for today, seeking a review of its orders permitting Obi to inspect electoral materials used for the conduct of the presidential election. At the resumption of proceedings in the suit on Tuesday, INEC’s lawyer, Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), urged the court to review the earlier order to enable the electoral umpire to reconfigure the BVAS machines for deployment to the over 176,000 polling units across Nigeria.“No data or information will be lost in the course of transferring data from the BVAS to the backend server or cloud (of INEC),” Inuwa explained, arguing that any delay in granting the application would delay the conduct of Saturday’s election. But Obi’s lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), disagreed with INEC. Ikpeazu contended that reconfiguring the BVAS would alter the data that had been stored on it from the presidential and National Assembly elections. He begged the court to dismiss INEC’s application. After it listened to the parties, Justice Ikyegh-led panel adjourned ruling on the matter till today. In a related development, the appellate court fixed today for a hearing a similar application filed by INEC concerning Atiku and PDP. Atiku also secured the court’s permission to inspect the electoral materials that were used for the polls. The separate suit could not be heard on Tuesday because Atiku’s lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), needed time to respond to INEC’s filing. In the two separate ex parte applications, Atiku and Obi, alongside their political parties, urged the court to compel INEC to allow them to obtain documents it used for the presidential election to aid their petitions against the outcome of the presidential election. Also, the duo sought an order restraining INEC “from tampering with the information embedded in the BVAS machines until the due inspection was conducted and certified True Copies of them issued.”The court permitted the appellants to do electronic scanning and/or make photocopies of voter registration and ballot papers used in the conduct of the presidential election.PDP has, however, rejected INEC’s bid to reconfigure the BVAS machines. Addressing a press conference at its national secretariat, the party through its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said: “We alert Nigerians and the international community of the move by INEC to destroy and erase evidence of its intolerable rigging of the February 25 presidential election.“INEC in a desperate move to prevent our party and candidate from obtaining necessary evidence as ordered by the court has filed a motion requesting that it be allowed to reconfigure the BVAS machines and wipe out relevant information that our party and candidate require to prosecute our case at the Presidential Election Tribunal.
 “This action by INEC to frustrate the desire of Nigerians to get redress through the court is a clear recipe for crisis and a deliberate design by the Commission to derail our democracy and trigger anarchy in the country.” PDP said the action by INEC is vexatious, provocative and only points to “the impunity and culpability of the Commission with regards to the reported manipulations and alteration of results to deny our party and its candidate their victory at the election.”YESTERDAY, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room kicked against INEC’s decision to reconfigure the BVAS machines it used for the presidential election. The Situation Room, which is a coalition of 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), working in support of credible and transparent elections in the country, in a statement, said it was concerned about the question of preservation of data collected during the first round of the election held on February 25. “Situation Room will like INEC to clarify to the public how it intends to ensure that data collected in the BVAS machines used in the election will be preserved for use in the review and audit of the elections. Electoral accountability requires that information collected during elections is preserved for use in the audit and review of the election and for accountability purposes. In light of the disputations that have emerged and the controversy surrounding the elections, Situation Room is asking INEC to ensure that its records and data related to the election are held safely and securely to ensure its use for the purposes of scrutiny and accountability. “Reports indicating that the BVAS may need to be reconfigured or even erased for the upcoming governorship and states’ Assembly elections due on Saturday, is a serious cause for concern and we worry that this could further pose additional credibility questions over the integrity and conduct of the general elections”, the statement, which was signed by conveners of the CSOs, Ene Obi, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu, read.MEANWHILE, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has ordered INEC and the Rivers State government to appear before it to explain why Saturday’s governorship election should not be suspended. This was following a suit by Chief Tonte Ibraye, governorship candidate of the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC) and the party seeking suspension of the election in Rivers. Tonte in an ex parte motion also stated that the new Executive Orders of the Rivers State government negatively impacted the electoral process in the state. The plaintiffs, Ibraye and ADC had in the suit instituted in Abuja FHC/ABJ/CS/246/2023, on four grounds, sought the suspension of the guber poll in the state. But the ex parte motion transferred to be heard in Port Harcourt, which was received by Registrar of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Mrs G.I Obata, was heard yesterday. Justice A.T. Mohammed, who is presiding over the matter, ordered that the defendants, governor of Rivers, Attorney General of Rivers, PDP and INEC appear before it today, at 1:00 p.m.Mohammed said the order was for the parties to be present to argue on why Saturday’s polls should not be suspended. In another development, former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has assured Nigerians that the 10th National Assembly won’t act as a rubber stamp for the executive arm of government. Oshiomhole stated this yesterday during an interview with newsmen shortly after receiving his Certificate of Return (CoR) from INEC at the International Conference Centre (ICC).  The former APC National Chairman was declared the winner for the Edo North senatorial seat after scoring 107,110 votes to defeat the incumbent, PDP’s Francis Alimikhena, who scored 55,344 votes. Speaking, Oshiomhole said he has been the voice of the people all his life, adding that he is going to the Senate to sponsor bills that will change the status quo.  “It is expected that the executive will be powerful but not to have absolute power that it cannot be subjected to legislative check. There is a lot of reviews that can be done in our laws and policies so that the renewed hope agenda of our party can be translated into reality.”  Other winners were also issued Certificates of Return. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, assisted by National Commissioners made the presentation. Yakubu had, on Saturday, said winners were declared for 423 legislative seats, indicating that supplementary elections would be conducted in 46 other constituencies.The elected legislators include 98 out of 109 Senate and 325 out of 360 House of Representatives seats. Seven parties won in the Senate, while eight parties won House of Representatives seats.There are only three females out of the 101 Senators-elect that received the certificates. They are Rivers deputy governor, Ipilabo Banigo; former Lagos deputy governor, Idiat Adebule and wife of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ireti Kingibe.Meanwhile, Senator-elect for Kano Central, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, was not available to collect his CoR.  Shekarau, who was declared winner of Kano Central on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), resigned from his membership in the party. He wrote to inform the party he was no longer interested in the ticket.Although the party went to court to compel INEC to replace Shekarau with another candidate since he was no longer a member of NNNP, party officials said the Commission failed to do so, insisting the former Kano governor can only be replaced in a situation of death, incapacitation or handwritten resignation.

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