The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, seeking access to the server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal had on the 24th of June, 2019, held that granting the prayer to access INEC’s server would amount to pre-judging the main issue meant for trial during the substantive hearing of the petition.
Dissatisfied with the tribunal’s verdict, the PDP and Atiku appealed it to the Supreme Court.
The Dattijo Muhammad-led five-man panel of the apex court, in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the appeal, saying there was no basis to interfere with the earlier decision of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal rejecting the appellants’ request to access the said server.
Justice Chima Nweze, who read the lead judgment of the apex court, said the appellants failed to establish that the tribunal wrongfully exercised its discretion in dismissing their request.
He added that they also failed to place sufficient materials before the apex court to show that the tribunal’s exercise of its discretion was either arbitrary or illegal.
Justice Nweze added that the allegation by the appellants that ruling of the tribunal amounted to a denial of fair-hearing was not substantiated.
Atiku and PDP had alleged in their petition pending before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that the “authentic” results of the February 23, 2019 election which gave them victory were stored in the said INEC server.
Earlier, leading their argument on Tuesday, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), told the apex court that his clients were still within time, as the 180 days meant for the tribunal to hear and determine the case had not lapsed.
But the three respondents — INEC, President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress — opposed the appeal through their respective lawyers, and urged the apex court to dismiss it.
While INEC was represented by Yunus Usman (SAN), Buhari was represented by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and APC by Chief Charles Edosomwon (SAN).
They maintained that granting the prayer of the appellants would be of no utilitarian value as presentation of evidence at the tribunal had closed.
The tribunal has fixed Wednesday (tomorrow) for final arguments in the case.
Atiku and the PDP are, by their petition before the tribunal, challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23, 2019 election.