Peter Obi refuses to pay N1.5m charges for documents— INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday accused Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate Peter Obi of refusing to pay the sum of N1.5 million requested for the certification of the document concerning Sokoto and Rivers states.
INEC’s lead lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), said this at the resumption of the pre-hearing session in the petition by Obi and LP before Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) and referred to a letter to him by the petitioners’ lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), in which he protested against.
It said the petitioners were unwilling to pay the required fees for the certification of election documents required to prove their petition adding that their unwillingness to pay the prescribed fees. accounts for the delay in the release of the remaining documents.
Mahmoud said his client was willing and ready to release the requested documents, once the stipulated fees were paid.
“Specifically, with respect to Sokoto and Rivers, I was informed by the commission that the documents were provided, but the petitioners did not want to pay for certification.
“In Rivers, they were given some documents, but they insisted they will not take any until all the documents they requested are made available,” he said.
Mahmoud added that, unlike the petitioners’ team, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got all the documents it requested because it complied with the requirements.
He also accused the petitioners’ legal team of frustrating efforts by parties to sort out and agree on the mode of tendering available documents as exhibits.
Mahmoud claimed that while the petitioners’ team made it impossible for representatives of parties to meet on May 10 as earlier agreed, it (the team) walked out of the meeting subsequently held on Tuesday without any provocation.
Uzoukwu had complained that the scheduled report on the parties’ agreement on the tendering of documents was made impossible because INEC allegedly refused to grant his clients access to the documents.
He said he wrote five letters, visited INEC headquarters and even met with INEC Chairman on the issue, all to no avail.
He prayed the court to compel INEC to make the documents, including Form EC8A, available to the petitioners.
Uzoukwu denied the INEC lawyer’s claim that his clients were unwilling to pay and assured the petitioners were ready to pay any amount once it is official.
He denied that the petitioners’ team walked out of the meeting as claimed by Mahmoud.
Counsel for the President-elect and Vice President-elect, Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettma – Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and the counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) noted that from Mahmoud’s account, it was obvious that the delay in the release of the remaining documents was because the petitioners failed to pay the required fees.
Olanipekun and Fagbemi said the account of what transpired at Tuesday’s meeting, meant for parties to agree on documents, was as told by Mahmoud.
Olanipekun noted that the petitioners were making a mistake by refusing to pay the required fees, noting that certification and payment were allowed under Section 104(1) of the Evidence Act, without which the petitioners will be unable to tender the documents.
He wondered why the petitioners insisted on getting all the documents before taking any further steps when they already have documents concerning 36 of 38 states.
Fagbemi said: “The refusal of the petitioners to observe the protocol, to pay the necessary fees as required by law is what has made it impossible to proceed.”
The court then adjourned till Friday for the possible conclusion of the pre-hearing session.
The petitioners are to report on their agreement about the tendering of the documents and the hearing of pending applications, including those filed by the respondents seeking the striking out of some aspects of the petitions
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