The All Progressives Congress (APC) has been granted leave by the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to inspect documents and other electoral materials used for the conduct of the June 18 governorship election.
The leave to inspect the poll materials was consequent upon the prayer sought by the APC which was moved through a motion ex parte by its counsel, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu on behalf of the lead counsel, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi (SAN) at the proceeding of the Tribunal on Monday.
The APC is the 2nd Respondent in the petition filed by the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the election, Engr. Segun Oni, who is challenging the victory of the APC flag bearer, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, who has been declared as the Governor-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Governor-elect, Mr. Oyebanji, was listed as the 1st Respondent in the petition before the three-member panel of judges at the Tribunal.
The tribunal in a ruling delivered by Justice Wilfred Kpochi granted the prayer and ordered the INEC which is the 4th Respondent in the petition, to grant the APC, the 2nd Respondent/Applicant, the right to inspect all documents and electoral materials used for the conduct of the poll.
Justice Kpochi ruled: “It is germane for the applicant to defend the petition. Also, the oral application by the 2nd Respondent as prayed at the Tribunal is granted.”
The APC counsel had argued that the motion was pursuant to Section 6(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999, Section 47(1) of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act, Section 146(1)and (2) of the Electoral Act 2022.
The motion sought “An order, granting leave to the. 2nd Respondent to move the application outside the pre-hearing session.”
“An order of the Tribunal permitting the Applicant or its agents for the purpose of defending the petition, to take certified copies and conduct manual/physical inspection of all electoral materials used in the conduct of the Governorship election into the office of the Governorship of Ekiti State held on 18th June, 2022, in all the 16 Local Government Areas of Ekiti State.
“An order directing the 4th Respondent and any other agents of the Fourth Respondent to allow the Applicant and/or its counsel to inspect and if deemed necessary, make/procure certified true copies of the Bimodal Voter Authentication System (BVAS), accredited voters printouts, scanned and transmitted documents, among others.”
Specifically, the documents the APC was seeking to inspect include Forms ECB Series, EC17 Series, EC25 Series, EC 40, EC60 Series, scanned ballot papers with scanner or other related machines, voters register and all electoral materials used for the poll in all the 16 LGAs of Ekiti State and ballot papers (used and unused) during the election.
The Applicant (APC) also sought an order directing INEC to allow it or its counsel to inspect the above materials together with affidavit in support and academic certificates of Mr. Oyebanji, the 1st Respondent including the letter signed by Alhaji Mai Mala Buni and Dr. John Akpanudoedehe in their capacities as the National Chairman and National Secretary of Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee which nominated Oyebanji as the governorship candidate.
The Tribunal had earlier granted the same leave to the petitioner and candidate of the SDP, Engr. Oni, who was seeking to be declared as winner of the poll claiming to have scored the highest number of lawful votes cast at the election.
Oni alleged that the election was marred by irregularities including what he described as “excessive vote buying.”
But the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Chief Bisi Kolawole, who came third at the election, is not contesting the outcome at the Tribunal having congratulated Mr. Oyebanji, who was declared by INEC as the winner in the result announced in the early hours of Sunday, June 19.