The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised concerns about the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, and the party’s opposition to paying the necessary fees for the certification of election documents. These documents are crucial for prosecuting their petition before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal. INEC’s lead lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), revealed that Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), the head of the Labour Party’s legal team, stated in a letter that they were unwilling to pay the requested N1.5 million for the certification of the documents related to Sokoto State.
INEC has attributed the delay in releasing the remaining documents for the presidential election in Sokoto and Rivers States to the LP’s unwillingness to pay the required fees. Mahmoud informed the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) during the hearing that INEC is fully prepared to release the requested documents as soon as the stipulated fees are paid. He also accused the Labour Party team of walking out of a scheduled meeting with other parties to discuss the submission of documents as exhibits in the case.
On the other hand, Uzoukwu informed the court that INEC has been hindering his clients’ access to the election documents necessary to prosecute their case. Despite writing multiple letters, visiting the INEC headquarters, and even meeting with the INEC chairman, they have not received the required cooperation. Uzoukwu urged the court to compel INEC to provide the documents, including Form EC8A, to the petitioners. He also denied the claim made by the INEC lawyer that the petitioners’ team walked out of the meeting.
The lawyers representing the president-elect and vice president-elect, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), highlighted that based on Mahmoud’s account, the delay in releasing the remaining documents is a result of the petitioners’ failure to pay the required fees.
The pre-hearing session for the petition has been adjourned until Friday, allowing for further proceedings and discussions on this matter.
By resolving the issue of the outstanding fees and ensuring the timely provision of the requested documents, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal can proceed with a fair and comprehensive evaluation of the case brought forth by Peter Obi and the Labour Party.