As 70% of documents requested for were not provided by INEC
The meeting conveyed by Abubakar Mahmoud SAN, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s lead counsel between the legal teams of Labour party presidential candidate Peter Obi , President -Elect Ahmed Bola Tinubu and All Progressives Congress, APC, to sort out documents for the presidential election petition court has collapsed.
The meeting collapsed just INEC ,APC , Tinubu lawyers accused Peter Obi lawyers of walking out of the meeting on Tuesday, May 16.
But Obi lead counsel Dr Livy Uzoukwu said their accusations are blackmail intended to weaken and deceive the petitioner legal team to accept what is not right.
Recall that the lead counsel to the parties in the petition filed by Peter Obi: namely, Abubakar Mahmoud SAN, Livy Uzoukwu SAN, for Labour Party, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN for Bola Tinubu and Chief Lateef Fagbemi SAN had on May 10, 2023 persuaded the Court to agreed to their arrangement and agreement to set up a joint legal team to sort out documents that would be opposed and those that will be allowed during hearing without any objections .
At the resumed pre-hearing session on Wednesday Peter Obi lead counsel Dr Livy Uzoukwu told the court that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had refused to provide his team with 70 percent of the documents it requested for the meeting.
He said meeting scheduled for harmonization of documents by counsels was not successful because of INEC refusal to provide the necessary documents.He said they only got about 30 percent of the required documents to prosecute the matter .
Uzoukwu said for example, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC for Rivers state had blankly refused to provide any document including form EC8A,they had demanded for.
While INEC legal officer for Sokoto state demanded for a payment of sum of money that would be embarrassing to mention in Court as processing fees for certified copy of the needed document.
The counsel said despite all the efforts including five separate visits to the Independent National electoral commission, INEC Headquarters the respondent is insisting on a down payment of the sum of N1.5m as processing fee for documents in its headquarters to be certified. My team have only received 30 percent of the document, and we will pay for any of the document they certified.
Dr. Uzoukwu further told the court that, in addition to his efforts, he had written a letter to the INEC’s counsel detailing his predicaments on refusal of his client ( INEC ) to provide him with the needed documents.
Responding, Counsel for INEC Abubakar Mahmoud SAN reiterated his earlier pledge to cooperate with the counsel in the matter.
He said it was for same reason that he opted to initiate the meeting . He said that Livy Uzoukwu ,SAN, lead legal team did not honour the meeting of Monday,May 15 and that he was informed that the petitioner legal team walked out during the rescheduled meeting on Tuesday,May 16, 2023.
Counsel for the INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud specifically stated that his client is always willing to cooperate with parties to provide the needed documents.He, however, advised Obi’s lawyer to follow the necessary lay down protocol for accessing of certified copy by paying the prescribed fees.
In his response counsel to Tinubu and Kashim Shettima the 2nd and 3rd respondents, Chief Wole Olanipkekun, SAN, agreed with Mahmoud submissions that the LP team failed to honour the agreement reached by the counsel
The counsel accused Obi’s counsel of walking out of the pre-hearing meeting ordered by the court, an accusation Obi’ lawyer denied and rather said the submission was a blackmail.
Counsel for APC , Chief Lateef Fagbemi SAN also aligned with the submissions of Abubakar and added that APC had no problem and had received documents from INEC.
In his ruling , the Presiding Justice Haruna Tsammani ruled that all applications must be heard on Friday, May 19, 2023.
He said that the pre -hearing will end on Sunday, May 21 ,2023 and that if it warrants the court to sit on Saturday night they will do it.
Earlier during the proceedings the Court had ordered LP counsel Uzoukwu SAN to file his response to the five separate motions served on him between Monday and Wednesday.
The petitioner lawyer had insisted on Wednesday that he must take five days to respond to contentious motions seeking to strike out several paragraphs of the petition.
He also said that the electoral body,the Independent National Electoral Commission had filed an objection to the petition seeking to broadcast the Presidential Election Petition Court proceedings live.