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Edo Election Tribunal: Parties adopt final, written addresses

By Simon Ebegbulem & Gabriel Enogholase

BENIN—Counsel to parties in the Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, yesterday, adopted their final written addresses, as the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of  counsel, adding that the date for the judgment will be communicated to them.

The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the September 28, 2016, governorship election in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is asking the tribunal to declare him winner of the election and urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to withdraw the certificate of return issued to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr Godwin Obaseki, who was declared winner of the election by INEC.

In their respective addresses, Mr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN,  Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and Lateef Fagbemi, counsel to INEC, Obaseki and APC respectively, buttressed their arguments on the point of law, urging the tribunal to dismiss Ize-Iyamu’s petition as it failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the petition before the tribunal.

But counsel to Ize-Iyamu and PDP, Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, insisted that they have provided the tribunal with the evidences needed to annul the election of Obaseki, adding that there was merit in their petition and that Ize-Iyamu should be declared the authentic winner of the election.

Each of the counsel was  given 20 minutes to address the court on point of law. Counsel to INEC, Ikpeazu, in his address, noted that the PDP candidate invited ward collating officers as witnesses  “And they cannot be super human to be in all the polling units where election held to know what actually happened. They also canvassed the issue of over voting and for over voting to be proved, there must be ballot paper counting and certified before the court and as far as this court is concerned, there was no counting of any ballot paper here.”

On his part, Olanipekun pointed out that “We have issues with the identity of the petitioner because we have conflicting names given to us by the petitioners. Apart from that, the petitioners abandoned their case completely and pursued the issue of counting without providing evidence to prove their case. If there is any petition crying for evidence, this is one my Lord. It should be dismissed.”

Fagbemi, argued that “From all we have seen from the petitioners, there is a disconnect between the petition, the evidence and written addresses. The petitioners called witnesses without providing the evidence. In an election matter where there is request for nullification, the onus lies on the petitioners to prove their case. Your Lordship cannot grant an order which is totally useless.”

Counsel to Ize-Iyamu, Ali, urged the tribunal to disregard the submissions made by counsel to the respondents, arguing, “I have 10 points why this tribunal should grant our prayers. We have provided our evidence before this tribunal and everything pointed at INEC, that they did not conduct the election according to the Electoral Law. And even the respondent agreed with us that the election was not free and fair during proceedings.”

Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Badamasi, who commended the counsel for their cooperation throughout the trial, said a date for judgment will be communicated to parties.

From what the counsel to the respondents have said, they are asking the Tribunal to jettison the issue of the voters register. In Peterside VS Nwike, the Supreme Court stated that the voters register is even well recognised by the Electoral Act than the card reader. So we have provided the tribunal with the evidences needed in this case and we urge it to declared Ize-Iyamu the authentic winner of the election.”

Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Badamasi, who commended the counsel for their cooperation throughout the trial, said a date for judgment will be communicated to parties.

 


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