Ondo: Akeredolu, tribunal chair in war of words over record of proceedings
By Dayo Johnson
Akure—THE candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, yesterday traded words with the Chairman of the Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Andovar Kaka’an, over alleged inaccurate recording of the tribunal’s proceedings.
The altercation lasted for about 20 minutes as the first respondent to Akeredolu’s petition before the tribunal Governor Olusegun Mimiko, opened his defence yesterday.
Irked by Akeredolu’s exchange of words with him, Justice Kaka’an said the tribunal members were not afraid of being disqualified if counsels were not satisfied with the manner they conducted the proceedings.
The altercation between them was as a result of the recording of the evidence given by one of the witnesses called by Dr. Mimiko to prove that the election was peaceful.
The witness, Benson Aluta, from ward 10, unit 1, Ondo East Local Government Area of the state, was led in evidence by counsel to the governor, Abayomi Akanmode.
After about 20 minutes, Aluta was later cross examined by counsel to the ACN candidate, Lasun Sanusi, SAN, and the witness insisted that election went on perfectly in his unit without any malpractices or violence.
However, an argument ensured after the witness gave his evidence on what he said earlier on the number of those registered and the total number of votes recorded, while he was been led by Dr Mimiko’s counsel.
In an attempt to clarify Aluta’s statements, the tribunal chairman decided to read what were recorded for the witness as his evidence before the court.
But after the tribunal chairman read his record of the evidence given by the witness, some of the people in the court, particularly the counsels murmured in disapproval of what was read.
This was followed by further murmuring and side talks especially from the counsels to the petitioners.
Uncomfortable with the side talks, the Chairman said: “This tribunal will not entertain any side talk, we are here for a serious business and we need to conduct ourselves properly before this tribunal as honourable members of our noble profession.”
But Akeredolu stood up and fired at the Chairman, saying, “I was the one that made the statement. What I said was that the tribunal chairman did not record correctly, the statements of the witness. What was recorded was different from what the witness said. We are prepared to challenge this proceeding at a higher court because this is not the final court on this matter.”
The Chairman of the tribunal fired back saying that the tribunal members took exemption to Akeredolu’s outburst.
Kaka’an, alleged that the statement of the ACN candidate was like questioning the integrity of the panel, saying, “as a senior member of the bar, you are free to petition the National Judicial Commission and ask for the dissolution of this tribunal. It will not be the first time that tribunals are dissolved. We will even be happy to go to our homes if we are sacked.”
Sensing that the altercation was getting messier, one of the senior counsels in the petition, Mr. John Baiyeshea, SAN, apologized to the tribunal on behalf of the bar.