Peter Obi Accuses INEC of Bias in Presidential Election Petition Court
On April 26, 2023, Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of bias and demanded that INEC maintain neutrality in electoral contests between candidates.
Obi filed a reply before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) and criticized the electoral body for filing a preliminary objection in support of the President-elect and candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Bola Tinubu.
Obi stated that the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal had previously cautioned INEC not to place itself “in a position where imputation of partiality in favour of one party against one will be leveled against it”.
He argued that the global best practice for electoral umpires in national elections is that an electoral body must avoid creating the impression that it has no respect for neutrality in an electoral contest between candidates. Obi also claimed that the appellate courts have repeatedly admonished INEC of its need to remain neutral in election proceedings.
Obi further criticized INEC for raising a preliminary objection against an Election Petition, calling it not only an embarrassment but also a repudiation of the duty of the electoral umpire. He noted that INEC must maintain a neutral stance in all litigations where participants in elections are challenging the outcome of the elections and not indulge in filling objections to the Petition. Obi demanded that the Honourable Court strike out and/or dismiss the 1st Respondent’s Notice of Preliminary Objection.
Additionally, Obi argued that Tinubu was not elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election, and that the Appeal Court, which will sit as the tribunal for the presidential election dispute, has the requisite jurisdiction to entertain and determine the real issues in the petition. He further contended that Tinubu’s running mate and Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, was not validly nominated to contest the presidential election.
Obi argued that until there is a valid substitution of a candidate by a political party, the status quo remains and therefore the submission of the 3rd Respondent’s Form EC 9 as Vice-Presidential Candidate of the 4th Respondent did not automatically abrogate his subsisting nomination as Senatorial Candidate for the Senatorial election for Borno Central Senatorial District.
Obi claimed that LP had agents that were positioned at various polling units during the conduct of the election, but INEC failed and neglected to give clear copies of the result of the election in the polling units (Forms EC 8A) to the Petitioners’ Agents.
He also argued that the actual votes obtained at the polling units as shown in the Report incorporated/pleaded in the Petition show that the Petitioners won the majority of the lawful vote cast at the election and met the constitutional requirement to be returned/declared as the winner of the election.
Finally, Obi argued that the use of BVAS for the transmission/upload of the result of the election in the polling units electronically to the I st Respondent’s Result Viewing Portal (IReV) is mandatory. He stated that, by the applicable laws and regulations, the legitimate mode for resolving disputes at the collation is by resorting to the result uploaded on the IReV using the BVAS.
Obi also noted that INEC’s IReV containing the election result of the election in the Polling Units (data of the election result) upload/stored on the IReV is hosted on the AWS or the Amazon Cloud Platform. He stated that the Petitioners will at the trial rely on the server logs for the IReV Server, as well as the server content of the AWS Cloud Platform.
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