March 20, 2021

Cross River Senatorial By-election: APC, Agi want tribunal to declare him lawful winner

…ask the tribunal to declare PDP votes in the election “wasted” political party can go into elections without a known candidate …Agi SAN

…the petitioner has no business challenging internal party affairs … Ukweni SAN

By Ike Uchechukwu Calabar

The Candidate of the All Progressive Congress APC, in the December 5, 2020, Bye-Election for the seat of the Cross River Northern Senatorial district, Joe Agi SAN and his party, both 1st and 2nd Petitioners in Suit N0:EPT/CR/SEN/03/2020 are asking the Tribunal to declare “all votes cast for PDP in the election as wasted votes.”

Agi SAN also argued that in the event where the tribunal agrees with his submissions, having come second in the polls he should be declared the lawful winner.

The Petitioner who closed their case on Thursday had a marathon day on Wednesday as the APC candidate entered the witness box at few minutes past 10 am and remained there to give evidence to his petition till some minutes to

The three-man election petition tribunal headed by Justice Yusuf Mohammad sat through a stretch of about 7 hours with only a 10minutes break from to taking the testimony of the Petitioner, who was listed as PW2 after the Tribunal had refused his application to get a subpoenaed witness, listed as PW1, a local INEC staff to testify.

At the witness box, lead counsel to the petitioner, Mathew Bukkaa got him to adopt all his statements on oat as his testimony in support of the petition and also through him, the counsel tendered Exhibit B1 to B57 as an addition to Exhibit A1 to A 27 earlier tendered and admitted by the Tribunal the previous day.

Exhibits B1 to B57 are copies of some of INEC forms EC60E and EC8A from the five local government areas that made up the Cross River North Senatorial District.

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All the four respondents in the case; Steven Odey – 1st respondent, Hon. Jerigbe Agom Jerigbe – 2nd respondent, Peoples Democratic Party PDP – 3rd respondent and Independent National Electoral Commission – 4th respondent, all objected to the admissibility of the tendered INEC documents by the petitioner but told the court that they reserved their reasons for the objection to be made known in their final address to the petition.

The documents were finally admitted as Exhibit B1 to B57 pending the final judgment in the Petition.

The respondents’ counsels cross-examining the PW2 who explained that he was in no way challenging the result of the election but making a case on points of law and facts that the PDP had no known candidate for the election in question as of December 5, 2020, when the polls held.

“The votes cast for the PDP were wasted because they had no known candidate and INEC in the publication of the final list of candidates of political parties to the election had no name on the space for the PDP.

“No political party can go into an election without a known candidate in Nigeria. That is why the APC lost Zamfara state to the PDP. In this case, the lawful thing to do in the light of the wasted votes on PDP is to declare me, being the first runners up as the winner. I urged the Tribunal to allow my petition.” Agi said.

Counsel to the 1st respondent, Olabode Olanikpekun SAN in his cross-examination brought out documents showing that the Petitioner Agi had been a Counsel to the 1st respondents in a case he had against NIMASA wherein the 1st respondent was wrongfully dismissed on account of alleged fraud; That the same case has been cited in his current petition which suggests that a counsel is using client information against him having been privileged to have it as a counsel.

Agi defended his petition that nowhere did he say in his petition that Steven Odey was not qualified to stand election rather he is establishing the fact that the PDP had no candidate and inciting the case where he was counsel to Steven Odey he was only correcting the facts which the 1st respondent gave wrongfully.

He added that the correct information as in the state of the case of wrongful dismissal is that Odey is currently before the Supreme Court for determination of the case after NIMASA got a favourable judgment upturning the verdict of the lower court which was in Odey’s favour.

The tribunal however urged that the 1st respondent’s counsel sticks to the petition for which he did and tried to make the petitioner give evidence that could contradict his exhibits.

Counsels to the 2nd respondent, Mba Ukweni SAN and that of the 3rd Respondent, Emmanuel Enoidem Esq both tried to established their arguments that the petition was supposed to be a pre-election matter and that the petitioner not being a member of the PDP has no business challenging their internal affairs.

The petitioner however noted that he observed the infighting within the PDP and saw the opening for which he could explore in his favour. “My Lords, the crux of my case is that PDP had no known candidate. To date, their crisis is still on and the 4th respondent has so far issued a certificate of return to two different persons laying claims to an election they did not participate in all the process as it is lawfully expected,” Agi San said.

On Thursday morning being the third day of commencement of the hearing, the petitioner took the respondents by surprise by not calling more witnesses and closing their case. A member of the petitioners’ legal team, Muhammad Shui’ebu explained that their case is base on documentary evidence and so far all the relevant documents have been tendered and admitted.

With the close of the petitioner’s case, the 1st respondent was to open his case immediately but his lead Counsel Olabode Olanikpekun pleaded that he needs to get his client and other witnesses to be in court before opening his case.

The Tribunal granted the request and adjourned to March 24, 2021, for the 1st respondent to open his case.

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