Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi accused INEC of prejudice.
Obi said the electoral body should remain neutral in candidate contests.
In a reply to the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, Obi criticised the electoral body for filing a preliminary objection in behalf of President-elect and APC candidate Bola Tinubu.
“In a position where imputation of partiality in favour of one party against another will be levelled against it,” the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal had warned INEC.
Obi noted that the Supreme Court had stated in Attorney-General of the Federation V. Abubakar (2007) 10 NWLR (Pto 1041) that the election commission “must always remain fair and focused” as well as neutral.
“The first respondent, forgetting its role as an electoral umpire, gave a Notice of Preliminary Objection to challenge the alleged incompetence of the petition,” he said.
“The global best practise for electoral umpires in national elections is to avoid giving the impression that it has no respect for neutrality in an electoral contest between candidates.
“The appellate courts have repeatedly warned the first respondent to remain neutral in election proceedings. The first Respondent has not changed.
Therefore, it is not just an embarrassment but a repudiation of the first respondent’s responsibility to raise preliminary objection against an election petition when it dresses as a contestant in an election it conducted as an umpire.
“INEC is expected to remain neutral in all litigations where election participants challenge the results and not file objections to the petition.
“The petitioners will urge the Honourable Court to strike out and or dismiss the first respondent’s Notice of Preliminary Objection,” Obi said.
He also called INEC’s preliminary opposition to his suit challenging Tinubu’s presidential election victory “misconceived”.
“The first respondent’s contention that the petition’s reliefs are not grantable is false and made in manifest disregard of the petition’s specific and concise pleadings.
“The 1st Respondent’s Notice of Preliminary Objection pleading that the allegation in paragraph 20(ii) of the Petition is defective and does not disclose a cause of action is wishful thinking”.
Obi further argued that Tinubu was not elected by a majority of legitimate votes cast at the election and that the Appeal Court, which will adjudicate the presidential election dispute, has the jurisdiction to hear and decide the fundamental issues in the case.
“The Petitioners further aver that the necessary parties as required by law for determining the instant Petition are before the Honourable Court.
“The Honourable Court has the Jurisdiction to entertain and determine the real issues in this Petition”.
Obi further claimed that Tinubu’s running partner, Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima, was invalidly nominated for the presidential election.
“As at 14th July, 2022, when the 3rd Respondent was nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate of the 4th Respondent, he was still the Senatorial candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial District, his name not having been withdrawn by the 4th Respondent.
Electoral Act, 2022, Section 33 respondent.
“Borno Central Senatorial District is a senatorial constituency. The entire Federation is a Presidential and Vice Presidential constituency.
“Until a political party validly substitutes a candidate, the status quo remains and therefore the submission of the 3rd Respondent’s Form EC 9 as Vice-Presidential Candidate of the 4th Respondent did not automatically abrogate his subsisting nomination as Senatorial Candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District. “Section 285(14) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) does not support the Petitioners’ case,” he said.
Obi told the court that while LP had agents at various polling units during the election, INEC “failed and neglected to give clear copies of the result of the election in the polling units (Forms EC 8A) to the Petitioners’ Agents, as the pink copies given to the Petitioners Agents were very faint and unreadable”.
“In response to the new issue raised in paragraphs 26 and 27 of the 1st Respondent’s Reply, the Petitioners aver that the actual votes obtained at the polling units as shown in the Report incorporated/pleaded in the Petition show that the Petitioners won majority of the lawful vote cast at the election and met the constitutional requirement to be returned/declared as the election winner.
“In further answer to the said allegation by the 1st Respondent, the Petitioners aver that the actual result of the election shows that the 2nd Respondent neither won the highest number of lawful votes cast in the election nor met the constitutional requirement, including securing the 1/4 of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to be returned/declared as the winner of the Presidential Election.
According to the 1st Respondent, the 2nd Respondent is the first presidential contender since 1999 to win without 25% of FCT votes.
The unlawful return/declaration of the 2nd Respondent as the Presidential Election winner in rushed circumstances is unconstitutional.
“The Petitioners admit the averments paragraphs 28, 29 and 30 of the 1st Respondent’s Reply; and in further reaction to the new issues raised, state that the use of BVAS for the transmission/upload of the polling unit election results electronically to the IReV is mandatory.
In response to the “manual collation” concern raised in paragraph 31 of the First Respondent’s Reply, the Petitioners argue that the applicable Laws and Regulations allow the IReV’s BVAS result to resolve collation conflicts. As of 21 April 2023, the 1st Respondent’s IReV Portal (http://www.inecelectionresults.ng) shows that 167,433 of the 176,846 polling units submitted results, and 94.68% of the uploaded results were uploaded.
“In further answer, the Petitioners aver that the IReV containing the election result of the election in the Polling Units (data of the election result) is uploaded/stored on the AWS or Amazon Cloud Platform.
At trial, the Petitioners will use IReV Server logs and AWS Cloud Platform server content.
“In response to the issues raised in paragraphs 44, 45, and 46 of the I st Respondent’s Reply, the Petitioners aver that for resolving disputes relating to the collation of the election result, the only legitimate reference is to resort to the uploaded result from the BVAS to the IReV,” Obi added through his lawyers led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN.