Yakubu assures LP lawyers of access to poll materials

The legal team of the Labour Party, on Monday, met with officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja over their bid to inspect electoral materials used for the February 25 presidential poll.

The head of the legal team, Dr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), led 60 lawyers into the meeting to discuss modalities for obtaining the documents.

Uzoukwu said INEC needed to urgently make the polls materials available as the team was running against the deadline to file its petition against the outcome of the presidential poll.

Uzoukwu said, “We are here because we have not received any electoral stocks for inspection on behalf of our clients, and as you all know, election petition is time-sensitive. We have 21 days to file a petition on behalf of our clients. Out of that 21 days, we probably have about 10 days to go and up but till now, we have not received any documents.

“We have written to INEC, requesting for documents. Apart from that, the Court of Appeal made an order on the March 3 for INEC to release those documents to us but we have not received any; hence, we requested for a meeting with the chairman of the commission.”

However, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, assured the team that the commission would provide all the documents being requested.

Yakubu said, “We received a letter from Uzoukwu (SAN)  on behalf of the Labour Party. The letter is dated March 6. In the letter, we were served notice that the team will be here in the morning to inspect the materials but most specifically, the letter requested us to get in touch with our Resident Electoral Commissioners across the 37 states of the federation to make the documents and information available for the prosecution of their petition.

“A meeting has been scheduled with all the RECs and it is going to be a virtual meeting at 3pm, today (Monday), during which we will discuss, among other issues, this matter of providing Certified True Copies not only to the Labour Party, but to all other litigants as well.

“I want to assure you that the commission will not hide any document from anybody and will make available any document that they have requested.

“There are two categories of documents. Those that are in possession of the headquarters of INEC, we will easily make these documents available to you. Specifically, the EC8Ds from the states and the EC8As, which is the collation at the national collection centre by the commission itself. The EC8Es, the declaration, so many, a total of, I think 39 documents; this we can easily certify and give you almost immediately.

“As for other documents that you are asking for, they are at state level. So we need to work out the schedule to enable us know when your team is going to which state and on which date so that we can easily facilitate; not just certification of documents, but also the inspection that you requested for each of these documents.”

On accreditation data from INEC back-end, Yakubu said, “This will also be made available to you. Remember that the accreditation data covers over 176,000 polling units. We have to print them physically, certify them, and give them to you. You will get this document speedily. We will also make arrangements and notify our Resident Electoral Commissioners of your intended visit so that these documents will be made available to you.”

Uzoukwu thanked the INEC chairman for giving them the assurance that no documents requested for would be withheld.

He said, “So, we are leaving here rest assured that by the time we leave INEC premises, at least we will leave with some documents, the rest can then come from tomorrow and so on and so forth.”

Asked what would happen if the documents were not made available as promised, the SAN said, “That will be a national calamity. Not making the documents available will create the impression that INEC is deliberately frustrating us.  But listening to the chairman and all assurances, I want to give him or we want to give him the benefit of the doubt that we will get some of them today (Monday).

“At least if we get some of them today, that is indicative that we will get some other documents from tomorrow, and next tomorrow to enable us file this petition.”

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