Wednesday this week is very crucial for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate in the September 28, 2016, governorship election, Osage Ize-Iyamu in their bid to upturn the victory of Governor Godwin Obaseki, of the All Progressives Congress. Obaseki was declared the winner of the last governorship election in the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Monday reserved ruling till Wednesday on whether their witnesses called through a subpoena can testify on the substantive petition brought before it. An attempt by counsel to the petitioners to call the said witnesses had been vehemently resisted by counsel to the respondents which lead to a protracted debate on the matter. Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, however, stated that hearing on the main petition would continue on Tuesday.
Counsel for the petitioners, Kehinde Eleja, senior advocate Nigeria, SAN, had a sequel to the cross-examination of three witnesses by the respondents, called in one Oviosun Enas, whom he said had been subpoenaed to testify as a witness in the case. But counsel to INEC and Obaseki, Onyechi Ikpeazu and Ken Mozia, respectively, objected stating that witnesses who were not parties to the case and whose depositions had not been submitted along with the substantive petition to the tribunal before the pre-hearing session, could not be allowed to testify.
Their submissions were also supported by counsel to the APC, Adeniyi Akintola, who argued that the said witness, being a member of a political party not included in the main petition, could not testify at the tribunal. Respondents’ counsel said it would amount to a judicial ambush to allow the subpoenaed witnesses to testify.
But Eleja, who prayed the tribunal to consider the matter, explained that the tribunal had held that objections would be taken during the final address and treated without a loss of time to the respondents, an argument Ikpeazu said appeared “attractive” but “profoundly dangerous”. A lead counsel for the petitioners, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, had also noted that it would be unfair to continue to call other witnesses whose depositions were submitted with the main petition because the petitioners had arranged their case in a manner that would be effective.
But his argument was objected to by the respondents who also urged the tribunal to deduct the time allotted the petitioners to present witnesses if they chose to discontinue with proceedings until Wednesday. The respondents hinged their arguments on the premise that an adjournment could not be without consequences on the petitioners. Badamasi, therefore, adjourned to Tuesday for the continuation of hearing and to enable the petitioners to all their witnesses from Owan East Local Government Area.
A legal expert who would not want to be mentioned however told the magazine that it did not matter whether or not the witnesses are PDP members. Miffed at the development, he queried: “what is the essence of hiding those witnesses in the first place? It is so that the people will not know who is being called. These people are doing their case and they are masters of their own case. The opportunity will also come for them to do their own case and they can call whoever they want to call”. According to the legal practitioner, anybody can be called; “you can even call people from APC”. The seemingly frustrated source retorted: “there is no problem. If the tribunal rules against us, it is part of the things we will use against them whatever is the outcome”. A PDP leader confided in the magazine that the party was being circumspect by not disclosing its subpoenaed witnesses in order to avoid what happened to some of its witnesses who were allegedly bought over by the opposition. Particular mention was made of a ward chairman who was listed to give evidence in respect of election in the home town of a prominent APC leader, but was bought over and he consequently resigned from the PDP.Follow Us on Social Media