A legal battle is set to begin between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the February 23 presidential election won by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The PDP and its candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday approached the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) for permission to inspect the materials used for the poll.
They are seeking the tribunal’s order to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to grant them and their agents access to the materials.
Also yesterday, the leadership of the PDP took its protest over the poll to INEC’s doorstep in Abuja.
They were led by the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
But the APC said its legal team would defend the ruling party’s victory at the tribunal with facts and figures.
According to it, the PDP has taken the only democratic route to register its grievances by approaching the tribunal.
The Director of Strategic Communication of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, (SAN, said the ruling party is prepared to prove that the election, won by its candidate President Buhari, was conducted in a free and fair atmosphere, deviod of rigging as being claimed by the opposition.
In a statement in Abuja yesterday, Keyamo noted that resorting to court was the only democratic way for Atiku to ventilate his perceived grievances about the election, stressing that the council was not in any way prevailing on the former vice president not to seek judicial redress.
Keyamo denied reports that the council had written to some international organisations and development partners to prevail on Atiku not to challenge the outcome of the election in court, adding that the body that wrote the letter was not known to the council and does not speak for it and the President.
The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to some news item and posts on social media reporting that we wrote a letter to some international bodies to prevail on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar not to proceed to court to challenge the result of the 2019 Presidential Election.
“Our investigation reveals that a letter to that effect was purportedly written by a certain ‘Buhari Campaign Organisation’. This is the second time we will be informing the public that the said ‘Buhari Campaign Organisation’ does not act at the behest of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, nor does it represent the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation in any way.
“As a result, whatever it has released does not represent the position of the APC Presidential Campaign Council or President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Our official position is that we believe that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has a constitutional right to seek redress in court and we do not seek in any way to curtail that right. In fact, it is the resort to court that is the only democratic way to ventilate his perceived grievance and any attempt to restrict or discourage the exercise of such right would be an invitation to anarchy.
“In addition, we are very anxious to meet Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in court in order to show the world in a conclusive manner the free and fair nature of the comprehensive defeat of Atiku at the polls. An election is not termed ‘rigged’ only by the mere claim of it by the loser.
“That is what Atiku and the PDP want to ram down our throats. Unfortunately for them, international, continental and sub-regional observers (who can be seen as neutral by all standards) ALL declared the election to be free, fair and credible. No ego-massaging narrative can change that.
“We therefore totally disassociate ourselves from the letter purportedly written by one of, perhaps, many support groups of President Buhari. They may have a right to their opinion, but it does not represent our official position.”
In their application to the PEPT, Atiku and the PDP prayed that they be allowed to examine election materials
Their prayers are contained in a motion ex-parte they filed before the tribunal in Abuja, in which they are seeking leave to inspect the voters register, the Smart Card Reader (SCR), ballot papers and other vital documents used in the conduct of the presidential election.
They also want the tribunal to order INEC to allow their agents to scan and make photocopies of vital documents used for the election to enable them establish what they alleged were irregularities in the exercise.
In the motion filed by their lawyer, Chris Uche, (SAN), Atiku and the PDP said that the reliefs being sought against INEC were for the purpose of filing and maintaining an election petition, which they are preparing to file against the outcome of this year’s presidential election.
The Director, Contact and Mobilisation of the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Council, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), deposed to a 12-paragraph supporting affidavit filed with the motion.
INEC, President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC have been listed as respondents to the motion.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the motion.
The Nation learnt yesterday that the motion, being one of the preliminary steps towards initiating an election petition, may not necessarily be heard in the open, but in the chambers of the tribunal.
A member of the Atiku/PDP legal team confirmed to our reporter that the motion was filed to enable the team gather sufficient materials to prepare their petition.
The member said that such a motion was one of the preliminary steps in filing election petitions.
He said: “Since the petition was intended to challenge the outcome of the election, it was necessary to inspect vital materials used for the election to enable the intending petitioner source sufficient materials to prepare his/her petition.”
He was optimistic that his team would file the petition before the end of this week.