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Presidential polls: Iwu must answer Atikuís questions -Supreme Court

Posted by By GODWIN TSA, Abuja on 2008/01/26 | Views: 570 |

Presidential polls: Iwu must answer Atikuís questions -Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has given former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Atiku Abubakar the go ahead to interrogate Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu, on the conduct of the April 21, 2007 Presidential election.

The Supreme Court has given former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Atiku Abubakar the go ahead to interrogate Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu, on the conduct of the April 21, 2007 Presidential election.

The INEC Chairman is, however, under no obligation to appear before the tribunal as he is to provide answers to the interrogatories in a written affidavit.
In what appears to be a double edge victory, the apex court in its judgment approved the request by the INEC to call additional witnesses before the presidential election tribunal.

In addition, the court held that President Umaru Musa Yarí Adua and vice president Goodluck Jonathan need not supply further and better particulars before the tribunal as was requested by Atiku, since they are not INEC officials but contesters in the April 21, 2007 presidential elections.

The judgment is coming at a time parties in the election petition are expected to argue their written addresses before the tribunal on January 28, 2008.
Atiku who was the presidential candidate of the Action congress in the said election is challenging the outcome of the election before the tribunal.
It is his contention before the tribunal that the election that produced president Yarí Adua and Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] was riddled with irregularities including non-compliance to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2006.

In his petition, Atiku joined INEC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Inspector General of Police and the Chief of Army Staff as respondents in the petition.
He also filed an application to have Iwu interrogated on the conduct of the election.
However his application requesting the INEC Chairman to supply answers to the 27 questions he formulated for him was turned down by the tribunal on the grounds that it would amount to wasting the time of the tribunal.

Dissatisfied with the ruling of the tribunal, Atiku approached the apex court to set aside it aside.
Before the judgment, Justice Niki Tobi who read the lead judgment dismissed the objections brought against Atikuís appeal by the respondents on the grounds that the appeal has merit.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Tobi held that the questions formulated for the INEC Chairman were relevant as they may help in the determination of the case before the tribunal.
In addition, Justice Tobi noted that apart from their relevance, the 27 posers were within the knowledge of the INEC boss to provide answers.

His words, ďI hold that the questions are relevant as they may help the case before the tribunal. Apart from their relevance, they are within the knowledge of Iwu. Our law demands that he provides answers to them. The courts of law cannot sacrifice the constitutional provisions to fair hearing on the alter of speedy trialÖĒ

He noted that answers to interrogatories are usually given under oath through a written affidavit adding that interrogatories are legal questions, which are part of trial and they are never at large and must have nexus with the subject matter before a court of law.
Among the questions Atiku put forward were issues relating to the award of contracts for the printing of ballot papers to unnamed South African firm five days to the election even though the company had earlier expressed its inability to deliver such papers on schedule.

The former vice president wanted the tribunal to help him ascertain whether or not it was true the company in question had expressed it in capabilities "on the ground that delivery deadline was unrealistic if the ballots must carry serial numbers and be in booklet form with counterfoils".

Atiku also wants Iwu to say whether or not he supplied Anambra, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Cross-River, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Osun and Zamfara states INEC offices with the ballot papers emanating from such contract for the election.

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