Inspection Of INEC Ballot Papers :Atiku Heaves A Sigh Of Relief As Tribunal Gives The Nod

By Nwangwu Uba

The three-man Presidential election Tribunal set up by Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, the acting Chief of Nigeria, CJN, to handle election petitions arising from the Saturday, February 23, 2019, have begun sitting in Abuja. This is because of the electoral law which says that all election elecoral petitions must be done away with before the next government would be inaugurated on May 29, 2019.

 This is to avoid a repeat of what happened in the past where then elected Presidents who  had been dragged to Court by Current President Muhammadu Buhari had spent much of his time with his lawyers to brief them on how to go about  the case instead of settling down to attend to state matters.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan had avoided dragging Buhari, who won the 2015, Presidential  election on the platform of the All Progressive Congress, APC, to Court  despite the noticeable irregularities in the conduct of the election in the north east and north west geo-political election but conceded victor and congratulated  him to avoid throwing the country into crisis.

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu: INEC Chairman.

 He was applauded  the world over as a man of peace.  But Atiku Abubakar, a business Mongol and former vice president  who contested the election on the platform of  the People’s Democratic election, believes that he won the 2019 election and therefore had vowed  not to allow the mandate freely given to him by the electorate to be stolen.  He may have seen the election as the last opportunity to rule Nigeria.

I was not surprising why he  filed the ex-parte motion in Court ”seeking an order to inspect  the voters register and all the vital documents including other electoral materials  used in the conduct of the  Presidential polls .  This is in addition to his demand for the scanning and forensic audit of the electoral materials. The thee-man Tribunal headed by  Justice Abdul Aboki may have known the legal and Constitutional implication  of his demands that they had to stop him. He was said to have been quickly reminded by  Aboki, the Tribunal  Chairman, that taking decision on such sensitive matters as scanning and forensic  audit  does not fall under the terms of reference given to them by the acting CJN and therefore would not go into it.

 Livy Uzochukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and head of the PDP legal team had argued vehemently to force the Tribunal members to change their mind failed.  But this may have sent a signal to the aggrieved PDP Candidate that the election has been lost.

The Tribunal which also has Justices Peter Ige, a Yoruba, legal luminary and Emmanuel Agim, from the Igbo extraction may have assured Atiku’s team of Lawyers that they have nothing worry about as they are not acting out a script or under the influence of any higher power as they granted the petitioner   theaccess to inspect all the electoral materials used during the election as requested. The PDP Candidate may have heaved  a sigh of relief when he had about ruling.

The APC, Camp on their part may not have expected that that the Tribunal would grant the PDP Candidate request to inspect the electoral materials used in the elections as they believed that that  the Turakin of Adamawa has no case as both the local and the international observers had adjudged the election as ”free and fair”. Recall, that Atiku and the PDP leadership had told the Abdulsalami Abubakar, a retired Army General and former Head of state, who incidentally is the Chairman of the National Peace Committee, NPC, mediating to find a  truce between Atiku and Buhari, over the election that they have documentary evidence to prove that the security agencies personnel compromised to rig the election in favour of the APC Candidate.

Given the weight of the allegation , Tukur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff , CAS, was said to constituted a   high powered Committee  to probe the allegation of soldiers Compromising during the last Presidential and National Assembly election to favour Buhari, then APC , Candidate who won the election, going by resuls declared by Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Buratai, who sounded tough while talking to the Staff Officers,  the General Officers Commanding, GOCs and the Commanders at a meeting at the Army Headquarters, Abuja, had said that the purpose of  the soldiers involvement in participating in the election to compliment the police efforts was to ”uphold  the Army’s credibility, professionalism and apolitical stand”.  He may have a signal to the soldiers that there is no hiding place for any officer found wanting when he vowed that  those killed  during he February 23, 2019, election   would fished out and made to face Justice”.

 Note that an officer and two soldiers  were killed  by suspected gunmen  at Abonnema, Akuku Toru, local government Area of Rivers state during the Presidential and National Assembly election  which was a bad advertisement for the Army  over alleged support for the APC. The Army Chief may have known the implication of the Army taking side in an election that he had read the riot act  to the Staff Officers, GOCs and Commanders , to call their boys that may be deployed to cover the election to order.  Appealing to soldiers that may be deployed for March 9, 2019, governorship and States Assembly election,  to be tough to the politicians and party thugs who might rig and disrupt, he averred that it is the only way to scare them away from making trouble or attempt to disrupt the electoral process. Many are watching to see how the soldiers would keep to the advice as they are already used to supporting the APC because of the pecuniary gains.

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