It is being circulated on social media that Justice Mistura Bolaji of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, while delivering her judgment on the petitions filed by Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar, stated that candidates should not depend on INEC for electoral results.
Both Obi and Atiku had earlier petitioned the court to void the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the February presidential elections.
A quote attributed to her reads, “Any serious candidate cannot and should never depend on INEC for electoral result.” -Justice Bolaji-Yusuf Misturah.
The claim has been widely circulated in different forms.
While aligning with the lead judgement delivered by Justice Tsammani, Justice Mistura spoke about the evidence presented by the petitioners in the case.
She stated that paragraph 9 of the regulation provides for a political party, the right to appoint one person as its polling agent for each polling unit, collation centre, and one representative at each point of distribution of electoral materials in the constituencies where it is sponsoring candidates for an election.
She held that while PW12 (petitioner witness) admitted that the party exercised that right and had 133,000 polling agents during the election, the petitioners did not invite any of these polling unit agents to give evidence, and not one of the result forms collected by these agents was tendered in evidence.
She went on to state that the Electoral Act makes provision for forms on which results are entered, and which are signed by INEC and party agents. The Justice noted that the duplicate of the result sheet is usually given to the party agents, and that these are potent materials for any candidate who wishes to challenge the result declared by INEC.
In her words, “any serious candidate ought not to depend on INEC for materials to prosecute its petition. According to Section 167(d) of the Evidence Act, the failure of the petitioners to produce election result forms collected by their agent raises a presumption that if those forms had been produced, it would have been unfavourable to the petitioners.”
CDD War Room was present at the Tribunal when it delivered its verdict on Wednesday, and can confirm that the Justice statement made no reference to the constitutional responsibility of INEC to conduct elections and declare results. Instead, her point focused on the responsibility of candidates challenging election results, to provide evidence collected through their party agents to support their petition in line with extant laws.