By Gbenga Ariyibi
Ekiti StateÂ governor, Engr Segun Oni yesterday began his defence beforeÂ theÂ Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ado Ekiti with all the witnesses called by him claiming that the April 25, 2009 governorship election re-run was free and fair.
The Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in the election, Dr Kayode Fayemi had challenged the return of Oni by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC0, saying the election was flawed with electoral malpractices.
As at the time of going to the press, the two witnesses who appeared at the witness box. Messers Clement Oluwole and Akande Olurotimi Johnson from Ipoti Ward B absolved the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Police Authorities of any complicity in the controversial election.
The two witnesses also tendered as Exhibits, the form EC8A that were used in the conduct of the elections in the two units in Ward B in Ipoti Ekiti in Ijero Local Government Area of the State where they served as agents to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the day of the election.
Under cross examination by the Counsel to all the Respondents Oluwole , told the tribunal that the conduct of the election was free and fair and that no hoodlums or political thugs disrupted it in any manner.
The witness further disclosed that both the INEC and Police discharged their duties as expected of them ,contrary to the earlier claim of the AC Witnesses that the election was flawed
Oluwole further refuted in his evidence the allegation that voters were not accredited, saying both the INEC Presiding Officer and the Poll Clerk ensured that the voters were accredited, as shown on the Votersâ€™ Register.
The Witness, who is a teacher of a Private School in that community, told the tribunalÂ that to ensure credibility and openness during the election, the INEC Presiding Officer in his unit had displayed the election materials to all the party agents before the commencement of the election and that the Ballot Box was well guarded by the Police to prevent snatching.
However, there was a mild drama at the venue of the tribunalÂ when the Counsel to the Petitioner, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), asked one of the witnesses, Akande Olurotimi Johnson to count the number of voters recorded on the form EC8A he tendered against the number of those that were accredited by the INEC Presiding Officer.
But this was quickly objected by Mr Adebayo Adenipekun who is the the Lead Counsel to Engr Oni in the case, on the ground that the witness was not the maker of the document
ThisÂ position was equally maintained by the counsel to other Respondents, which include: Joe Kyari Gadzama (SAN) for the PDP, Rafiu Rabana Lawal (SAN) for the INEC, N.O. Oke (SAN) for the Returning Officers in Ijero and Ido/Osi Local Governments and I.G.Odihi for the Police.
Fayemiâ€™s councel had claimed that on the Voters Register before the Tribunal about 357 Voters were contained on the Register, but only 142 actually voted with only 133 of them accredited, adding that the witness has the right to speak to the document since he was part of the election process.
Alli citedÂ the case of Agagu VS Dawodu, 1990, 7 NWLRÂ to substantiate his claim, adding that the Petitioner, Dr Fayemi had during his presence in Court to give evidence in respect of his case made to read from the documents he tendered in Court.
But Adenipekun who stood his ground citedÂ cases ofÂ Awuse VS Odili, 2005, 6NWLR and Fayemi VS Oni, 2009, 7NWLR, that only the Presiding Officer is competent enough toÂ speak on the document.
At this pointÂ the tribunal rose before returning toÂ the Courtroom for ruling. chairman of the tribunal Justice Buka Bwala in his ruling overruled the objection and maintained that since the Witness had answered that he knew nothing about the documentÂ the Tribunal had recordedÂ same.