Benin – Gov. Godwin Obaseki on Thursday requested the Edo Election Tribunal to adjourn till Monday to enable his lawyers re-strategise in his defence.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, are challenging the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the election.
The petitioners listed INEC, Obaseki and the APC as first, second and third respondents.
Ize-Iyamu had since closed his case after calling 91 witnesses and tendered several evidences to prove his case of alleged irregularity in some polling units and wards in the 18 local government areas of the state.
INEC, which also closed its case without calling any witness, said it relied on its sufficient cross examination of the petitioners’ witnesses to prove its defence.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, Obaseki’s lead counsel, Mr Adetunji Oyiyepo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), after admitting three more witnesses, sought permission of the tribunal for an adjournment till Monday.
Oyiyepo said the adjournment was to enable the defence team re-appraise their case before proceeding to calling any more witness.
“My Lords, we are asking for an adjournment for this petition. We have so far called 65 witnesses across the wards from the 18 local government areas of the state.
“We need Friday and Saturday to reappraise our defence strategy. We need more time to re-appraise our case.
“We need to re-strategise to make maximum use of the available time on Monday. We don’t want to dump all manner of witnesses at the tribunal,’’ he said.
Granting the application, Justice Ahmed Badamasi-led three man tribunal, also ordered Mr Rotimi Ogunesho, APC counsel to be ready to open his defence on Tuesday when Obaseki would have closed his case Monday.
Earlier, the three witnesses, who functioned as ward collation agents in the Sept. governorship election in their oral evidence, maintained that the allegation of over voting by the petitioners was not false.
The witnesses, all from Estako East Local Government Area are; Mike Awenegemen, Ogun Ologhe and Efedayo Esheshe.
Crossed examined by INEC and APC lawyers, Mr Onyniye Anunonye and Ogunesho, the witnesses confirmed there were no incidence of over voting because neither the PDP agent nor any other party agents complained of such on the election day.
But crossed examined by the petitioners’ counsel, Mr Kehinde Adelaja, SAN, Awenegemen refused to answer the question; “what constitute over voting.’’
When shown the voter register, exhibit PO2 60(6) and asked if there were tickings on the boxes, the witnesses responded “yes, the tickings are on the faces of the voters in the register. “But I don’t know whether the tickings are to the right or to the left.’’ he added.
Esheshe in his oral evidence said he was accredited before he voted.
But under cross examination, the witness said he would not know if it was the voter register that was used by INEC for his accreditation “since I am not INEC staff.’’
Badamasi has adjourned sitting until Monday for continuation of calling of witnesses by Obaseki.