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Why Atiku Cannot Inspect Election Materials Now

Citing security and logistics reasons, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has foreclosed the immediate release of the materials used for the February 23, 2019, presidential election to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for inspection.

In an apparent reaction to the PDP’s allegation that INEC was frustrating Atiku from accessing and inspecting the poll materials, the commission explained yesterday that the materials in question were not available for Atiku to inspect because they were still at the local government offices nationwide.

The commission further said that it cannot rush to allow Atiku, the PDP and any other political party that requested to inspect the materials because some of them are very sensitive and could be tampered with.

Like Atiku and the PDP, President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have secured the nod of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal to access and inspect the election materials.

With the dust over the inspection of the poll materials yet to settle, Atiku yesterday went ahead to file his petition challenging Buhari’s victory at the tribunal.

Atiku and his PDP are challenging the victory of Buhari and APC on the grounds of alleged massive riggings, irregularities and non-compliance substantially with the electoral laws.

Before this development, the tribunal granted Buhari and Atiku the permission to inspect the materials after entertaining the ex-parte applications they filed to that effect.

INEC officials told LEADERSHIP yesterday that the commission was not in a position to immediately release the election materials to Atiku and the PDP because the sensitive ones cannot be issued to a political party until certain payments were made to the electoral umpire.

It was learnt that most of the sensitive materials which are still at INEC offices at the local government areas across the country may be transported in trucks to its headquarters in Abuja or photocopied, which will take some time.

It is after these processes have been completed that the inspection can be done by Atiku or any candidate and party that so wish, INEC said.

President Buhari of the APC was on February 27, 2019, declared the winner of the presidential election by INEC haven polled 15,191,847 votes to defeat Atiku who garnered 11,262,978 votes.

Before INEC completed the collation of the results, Atiku and the PDP rejected them and later headed to the tribunal to seek the cancellation of the results in some states of the federation over alleged irregularities.

The tribunal granted some of Atiku’s prayers, among which, was that INEC should allow him and the PDP to inspect the election materials.

And last week, Buhari also stormed the tribunal, sitting at the Appeal Court, Abuja, requesting that he be allowed to inspect the materials, which the court granted.

Before INEC clarified its position yesterday, the PDP had accused the commission of frustrating its efforts to inspect the materials.

INEC argued yesterday that it has the responsibility to ensure that in all its dealings with aggrieved and other interested parties, the security of the sensitive documents is guaranteed.

The commission denied the allegation that it had refused the PDP access to the election materials.

INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr Festus Okoye, declared yesterday that, “I am not aware that the commission has refused to grant any political party access to election materials,”

Okoye said that there are procedures every party must follow when it comes to the inspection of sensitive materials, adding that the political party and its candidate must make some payments while INEC must ensure that it follows due process to prevent the materials from being tampered with.

He said: “There are procedures for harvesting documents in the commission and there are payments to be made before documents are released.

“Moreover, elections are conducted at the polling units and materials are kept in the various local government offices of the commission.

“There are a few documents in the headquarters of the commission. Most of the documents must be trucked from the local governments and or photocopied at the local governments. We will check at the state and ensure compliance with the requests,” Okoye said.

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