BY: Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo
CHAIRMAN of the governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, Justice A. M Yakubu has overruled the objection of petitioners Mr Nsima Ekere and the All Progressives Congress, APC, to prevent Subpoenaed witnesses of the 1st Respondent Udom Emmanuel from testifying at the Tribunal yesterday.
Lead Counsel to Ekere and APC, J.S. Okutepa, (SAN) objected to the subpoenaed witness Mr Patrick Albert and immediate past Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council and Emmanuel Ogbole, Chairman of Arewa Peoples Forum
being allowed to testify in the tribunal.
Okutepa was of the argument that both
Subpoenaed witnesses are not government officials and as such ought not to have been subpoenaed as witnesses.
He submitted that the First Respondent was merely looking for a window to bring in additional witnesses whose statements were not submitted along with the first Respondent’s reply.
The petitioner’s lawyer also faulted the statement of the witness which he said bothered on the conduct of elections at the polling units.
But in a counter-argument, the Counsel to the First Respondent, Governor Udom Emmanuel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, urged the tribunal to overrule the objection.
He referred the tribunal to the list of witnesses listed and told the court that the petitioners who were entitled to seek the particulars of the witnesses, never did so.
He further argued that there was no law, and indeed the Petitioners have not cited any, that stated that only government officials could be subpoenaed to give evidence in such election matter.
Ikpeazu maintained that under Section 175(1), of the Evidence Act, every person who is not under the control of the 1st Respondent can be subpoenaed to testify, except such persons were of unsound mind.
Referring to Section 171 of the Evidence Act, Ikpeazu argued that these two witnesses are compellable witnesses
Citing LASUN V. AWOYEMI(2009), LPELR11912 CA, and even in the recent proceedings in the tribunal, Ikpeazu recalled that a DPO from Essien Udim local government area subpoenaed at, was allowed to testify before the tribunal even without any written statement.
Supporting this, Tayo Oyetibo SAN, appearing for the 2nd Respondents(PDP) said, while adopting the arguments of Ikpeazu, that contrary to the position evidence of the witness at this stage cannot be considered by the tribunal.
He also cited more relevant sections of the law, to state that a subpoena can only be set aside upon motion as stated in the Odu v. Duke, saying that it would amount to a breach of fair hearing not to allow a witness on a subpoena to give evidence.
In his ruling Justice Yakubu, said the Tribunal refused Amadu Attai’s witness status because he had deposed to being the Deputy Governorship Candidate of the APC but told the Tribunal he is a Lecturer in the University of Uyo.
Justice Yakubu maintained that Subpoenas are served on people who are not under the control of parties in a case, as such, it has not been proven before to the Tribunal by the Petitioners that the Witnesses are under the control of the 1st Respondent. Ekere