By Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN—EDO State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Benin, has adjourned till April 3, 2017, to enable counsel to the petitioners and respondents adopt their final written addresses.
The adjournment by the three-man tribunal headed by Justice Ahmed Badamasi, is coming on the heels of the closure of its case by the third respondent, the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, after calling 14 witnesses.
The petitioners, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, had earlier closed their case after calling 91 witnesses, just as the first respondent, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, called no witness and the second respondent, Governor Godwin Obaseki called over 70 witnesses.
PDP and Ize-Iyamu are challenging INEC’s declaration of Godwin Obaseki of APC as winner of the election and have listed INEC, Obaseki and APC as first, second and third respondents respectively.
At the sitting of the tribunal yesterday, APC called two additional witnesses, one Evan Eleye and the Edo State chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua, to defend its case.
Counsel to the petitioners, Emmanuel Okala, SAN, objected to Ojezua’s testifying before the tribunal and argued that he, Ojezua, could not testify since he was not listed as one of the witnesses by the party and neither was he summoned nor subpoenaed to appear before it, but the tribunal overruled him.
Counsel to the first, second and the third respondents, Onyinye Anumonye and Wole Olanipekun, SAN and Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, respectively argued that it was not mandatory that a witness must be listed to give witness.
Olanipekun argued that the testimony of Ojezua had already been front-loaded to the tribunal and that front-loading was more important than listing as listing was contained in front-loading.
In his ruling, Justice Badamasi held that non-listing of a witness does not disqualify the witness from testifying, thereby, clearing the path for Ojezua to give testimony.
Ojezua in his testimony affirmed that INEC conducted stakeholders’ meeting with political parties before the election, adding hat the commission intimated the participating parties about the way and manner the election would be conducted.
Under cross examination, Ojezua was confronted with portion of his written deposition on oath, where he listed the INEC Training Manual as one of the documents used in conducting the election as opposed to his testimony where he only listed the 2015 INEC Guidelines and the 2016 Supplementary Guidelines as those used in conducting the election.