The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has fixed Thursday to hear a motion the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, filed to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to surrender the server where results of the February 23 presidential election results were transmitted to, for inspection.
The petitioners are challenging the declaration by INEC that President Muhammadu Buhari garnered a total of 15,191,847 votes to defeat Atiku who it said polled a total of 11,262,978 votes in the disputed presidential election.
In their petition marked CA/PEPC/002/2019, Atiku and his party, insisted that data they independently secured from INEC’s server, revealed that they clearly defeated President Buhari with over 1.6million votes.
The petitioners alleged that INEC had at various stages of the presidential election, unlawful allocated votes to President Buhari, saying they would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that result of the election as announced by the electoral body, did not represent the lawful valid votes cast
Atiku alleged that in some states, INEC, deducted lawful votes that accrued to him, in its bid to ensure that Buhari was returned back to office.
The petitioners said they would call evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and finger-print experts at the hearing of the petition to establish that the scores credited to Buhari were not the product of actual votes validly cast at the polling units.
Meanwhile, at the resumed sitting of the tribunal which is conducting its proceeding at the Court of Appeal Headquarters in Abuja, the petitioners, notified the panel that they had on May 8, filed an application for INEC to allow parties access to its server.
According to the petitioners, any of the Respondents, including President Buhari and the APC, would be at liberty to also access any information that would be retrieved from the server.
The five-member panel tribunal headed by Justice Mohammed Garba, okayed hearing on the application, on a day it entertained and reserved ruling on nine different motions that were filed by all the parties in the petition.
It will be recalled that President Buhari had earlier challenged Atiku and PDP’s bid to have access to any of the sensitive materials that were used for the presidential election.
In a preliminary objection he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Buhari who is the 2nd Respondent in the petition, argued that all portions of the petition relating to the use of Card Reader Device should are be struck out for being incompetent and not backed by any law.
He equally contended that every aspect of the petition grounded on or relating to electronic data purportedly retrieved or downloaded from INEC’s server are liable to be struck out, “same being incompetent and not rooted in any existing legislation”.
He said: “That there were no incidences of corrupt practices at the election of 23rd February, 20l9, as alleged by the Petitioners; and that the declaration and return of the respondent President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is valid and in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, and all other Laws, Rules, Guidelines and Regulations, regulating the election.
“That the election of the respondent as the elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is valid and was conducted in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“Contrary to paragraph 17 of the petition, the respondent states that the petitioners scored a total of 11,262,978 votes, trailing far behind the respondent who scored a total of 15,191,847 votes, with a margin of 3.328.869 votes”.
Insisting that he validly earned the number of votes that were credited to him by INEC, Buhari, said there was “nothing affecting the integrity of the election as there was nothing untoward on the Form ECBDM and no calculation errors can he revealed by any genuine forensic examination or statistical analysis in respect of the election”.
“The 1st respondent was duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election to the office ofthe President, and shall at the trial, rely on [NBC FORMS 3C8 MA) and ECBE, issued by the 1st respondent at the election.
“Further to paragraph 1 of the petition, respondent denies that the 1st petitioner voted at all at the election, and further states that 1st petitioner did/does not have any right to be returned an elected at the said election, having been rejected at the polls by the electorate and the respondent having been overwhelmingly voted by the electorate, and returned by the 1st respondent as President in the said election.
“The respondent further states that he did not only score majority of lawful votes cast at the election into the office of President of Nigeria at the election of 23rd February, 2019, convincingly, but also had/has the requisite constitutional spread of one-quater of the total number of votes cast in more than two-thirds of the States of the Federation”, President Buhari argued.
Meanwhile, among the nine motions the tribunal reserved judgement on included the one President Buhari filed for leave to amend his processes to reflect the contact address, email address and National Identification Number of his lead counsel, as required by the rules.
He also filed a motion for the entire petition to be struck out or dismissed for being fundamentally defective, thereby vesting no jurisdiction in the tribunal.
Alternatively, he asked the tribunal to strike out 18 itemised paragraphs of Atiku’s reply to his response against the petition.
On its part, INEC, in an application it filed on May 5, asked the tribunal for an order striking out the petition dated March 18, for failure of the petitioners to join the Vice President, Prof.Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, being the co-winner of the February 23 presidential election, as a party in the matter.
“Whatever affects the President affects his Vice. If the president is not qualified, even if the VP is qualified, he will go. Is it not therefore necessary to join him as an necessary party to the petition?”, INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Usman Uztaz, SAN, queried.
“We humbly urge my lord to dismiss this petition”, he added.
However, Atiku’s lawyer, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, described the application by INEC as “very unusual”.
In his counter-affidavit, counsel to the petitioners urged the tribunal to dismiss the application, “so as to save INEC and help it to maintain neutrality”.
Both Buhari and APC said they were not opposed to INEC’s application.
The tribunal reserved its ruling till a date to be communicated to parties.
In its second application filed on April 25, INEC, sought to be allowed to seek dismissal of the petition, within the pre-hearing session.
“It is our duty to defend the election result”, INEC insisted.
While INEC withdrew one of its pending applications, APC, through its lawyer, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, withdrew a motion it filed on May 14 to strike out certain paragraphs of the petition.
However, APC noted that the petitioners failed to file any counter-affidavit to another motion it filed on the same day for the entire petition to be struck out.
It argued that rather than to file a counter-affidavit to its application, the petitioners, filed a preliminary objection.
Fagbemi contended that since he withdrew the motion upon which the preliminary objection was based, the petitioners no longer had any issue against his motion for the entire petition to be struck out.
Similarly, the APC argued that the petitioners failed to respond to another application dated May 15, which sought to amend its earlier response to the petition.
Fagbemi drew attention of the tribunal to the fact that the petitioners erroneously responded to an unknown process dated May 24.
Even though Atiku’s lawyer, Uzoukwu, SAN, persuaded the tribunal to allow him to orally amend the date on the heading of the counter-affidavit, the panel, however stressed that the amendment would not affect the content of his process.
BREAKING: Senate Passes Bill To Make Tenure Of IGP Single 4-Year Tenure
The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that will make the tenure of office of the Inspector-General of Police by a single four-year term.
According to the Senate, the action became imperative to enable for a secured tenure of plan
a serving Inspector- General of Police, just as it passed that the community policing be strengthened.
The Senate has changed the name of “Nigeria Police” to Nigeria Police Force” as presently in use in view of the failed constitution alteration attempt to amend the name.
The Bill which was read the third time and passed, was a sequel to the consideration of the report on Police ACT CAP P19 LFN 2004( Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2020( SB.181) presented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Dauda Haliru Jika, APC, Bauchi Central.
The Upper Chamber has also approved that on the Appointment and Removal of the Inspector-General of Police, the provisions of the constitution in line with Section 2l5 of the l999 constitution (as amended) should be retained, as any proposal contrary to this provision will require constitution alteration for it to be viable.
The Senate resolved that the Police abide and enforce certain constitutional provisions, particularly fundamental rights at persons in Police custody under chapter 4 of the l999 constitution (as amended) and other international instruments on Human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory (including of provisions that reiterate the importance of fundamental human rights and advocating for their observance).
The Senate also passed that it should he made binding on the lnspector-General of Police to adhere to policing plans. The national policing plan should be made with inputs from the Police Force Headquarters and all the various Police formations nationwide before the end of each financial year, setting out priorities, objectives, cost implications and expected outcomes of Policing for the next succeeding financial year in order to change budgeting from a top-down approach to a bottom -up approach.
Do You Know Hate Speech Bill Is Still Alive And Well At The Senate?
By Fredrick Nwabufo
Social media/internet freedom is a basic human right. It is unalienable. In the pool of freedoms, it is as basic as the right to exist. Take away the power of thought and expression from a man, and you have a breathing cadaver.
On June 25, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice ruled that the September 2017 internet shutdown ordered by the Togolese government during protests was illegal and an affront to the applicants’ right to freedom of expression, this is according to Business and Human Rights Resource, which also reported that ‘’the court ordered the government of Togo to pay two million CAF to the plaintiffs as compensation and to take all the necessary measures to guarantee the implementation of safeguards with respect to the right to freedom of expression of the Togolese people’’.
The 2009 UN resolution on freedom of opinion and expression accentuates the primacy of the internet on human rights. The resolution foregrounds ‘’the importance of all forms of the media, including the Internet, in the exercise, promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, calling on states to facilitate equal participation in, access to and use of ICTs, applying a gender perspective’’.
This right is what Nigeria’s lawmakers at the national assembly seek to arrest and banish.
On November 6, 2019, the Senate introduced a bill seeking to regulate social media in the country. The proposed legislation entitled, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations bill, 2019’ was sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, senator representing Niger east – a district in the thrall of bandits. The bill has passed the first reading.
According to the sponsor of the bill, Nigeria needs the legislation because it would protect its “fragile unity”.
It proposes a fine of N150,000 or three years imprisonment for any offender and accords the government the carte blanche to shut down the internet – like in some authoritarian regimes across Africa.
A week after the anti-social media bill was floated; the senate introduced a bill seeking to establish a commission for the prohibition of hate speech in Nigeria. The bill entitled, ‘National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019’ was couriered by Sabi Abdullahi, the deputy majority whip of the senate.
The bill prescribed death by hanging for any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person.
It said crime is committed when: “A person publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and/or visual, which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or persons from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.’’
While the hate speech bill exists still at the senate – it has not been withdrawn and the courier has insisted it will not be pulled out – the anti-social media bill is currently at the committee stage of the legislative process.
Interrogating these bills, it is clear they are symptoms of the fear of a failing administration. Only a failing government will be afraid of citizens’ criticisms on social media or interpret civil actions as subversion. If the government was living up to expectations, it would not need to worry about social media.
The anti-social media bill, for instance, which the courier said is designed to protect Nigeria’s ‘’fragile unity’’ is the fallout of critical takes at the government on social platforms by citizens who have elected to be defiant owing to the vacancy of a viable opposition. The sponsor, Musa Sani, once cited the controversy over the hoaxed wedding of the president on social media as the inclination for his pursuit.
Also, the hate speech bill leaves many grey areas. How do you define hate speech? Hate speech is simply according to whoever defines it, and in this case – the government. The proposed legislation was conceived to be a slave whip to suppress dissent and to drown citizens’ voices against the rising insecurity of which the instigators are perceived to be from one section of the country.
Nigeria being what it is, there is no telling how things will turn out. We could all carry on, only waking up after a journalist; a critic or anyone at all is arrested based on these inchoate legislations.
The Centre for Liberty (CFL) has been on passionate advocacy for the termination of these two bills through its Digital Freedom Advocacy (DFA), sponsored by Voice. It has embarked on citizens’ actions, mobilising voices and consciences against the gestating anti-people legislations. And the non-governmental organisation, supported by the Voice, has shown resolve of not relenting until these bills are decapitated and interred. Nigerians must, as well, lend their support and voices to this cause. It concerns us all.
Really, these bills are in the pursuit of fear, repression and autocracy. They have not been put to sleep yet at the senate. Nigerians must stay woke.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.
COVID-19: PTF Chairman Says Another Lockdown Looms If…
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, Monday, during the daily briefing of the Taskforce in Abuja stated that there may be another lockdown.
Boss Mustapha said the Taskforce will not shy away from recommending another lockdown to be imposed on the country should the need arises.
The PTF chairman said; “As to whether we would advise Mr. President to consider another lockdown, I have said it here that lockdowns might not be popular but what will happen in the preceding weeks will determine.
“Madagascar has imposed a lockdown in spite of its herbal cure. About 39 states in the US because of the Thanksgiving Holiday and their National Day celebration on the 4th of June have begun to see spikes in their figures and the speed with which they were considering the ease of lockdown, a lot of states have slowed down.
“We have now isolated 11 local governments. We started with 20 but the dynamics of figures that keep jumping every week, there are now about 11 local governments that we have advised the sub-nationalities to consider precision lockdowns in these areas.”
He warned that the attitude of Nigerians in the coming days would determine whether there should be a need for another round of lockdown to be imposed in Nigeria.
“I believe as the days and weeks ahead would present, I will not be speculative as to what would happen in the future, but we will do everything within our mandate to ensure the safety and the protection of the well-being of the people of Nigeria.
“If that would require a recommendation of a lockdown, this Taskforce will not shy away from its responsibilities. We will take that decision. We will make our recommendations to Mr. President who will finally decide but we would first take a decision on our side as members of this Taskforce within the context of the mandate that has been given to us and make that recommendation.
“But such a decision or advice being taken now would be speculative. What would happen in the next two to three weeks would determine what would eventually be our recommendation.”
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