…admits 27 exhibits including Certificate of Return issued to Odey, Jarigbe of PDP
By Ike Uchechukwu, Calabar
Hearing on the election petition by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr Joe Agi, SAN against Dr Stephen Odey and Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe both of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over the winner of December 5, 2020, Cross River North Senatorial by-election commenced yesterday in Calabar with the tribunal admitting all the 27 exhibits tendered by the petitioner.
Some of the exhibits tendered include INEC form EC 60 E, Appeal and Supreme Courts judgements on Jarigbe versus John Alaga, INEC certificate of return to Odey of December 7th and Jarigbe on December 18 and others.
After the exhibits which are public documents and basically judgements of courts and documents listed in the Petitioners list of documents were admitted, counsel to Agi, Mr Mathew Burkaa called his first witness to testify out of the seven lined up but was vehemently objected by other counsels.
Lead counsel to Odey, Mr Olabode Olanikpekun opposed the first witness to testify, since the exhibit he was to testify on was not front-loaded citing some authorities.
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Counsel to Jarigbe, Mba Ukweni said that “the petitioners witness supposed to be in the list of witnesses the petitioner intends to call that the petitioner did not intend to call this witness. That the petitioner did not intend to call the witness. We urge you to uphold the objection
Emmanuel Enoidem the counsel to PDP adopted the same saying “it is clearly outside the protection of the law. Subpoena witnesses cannot be brought in at any time but within the 21 days stipulated by law” and counsel to INEC Mr I U Eyong supported saying ” we pray his Lordship not to accept this witness based on provisions of the Electoral act”
But Burkaa in his response to their objections said in the case of Orarume and INEC that was cited the law has moved and “when the lower court is faced with this kind situation it takes the latest judgement as the law has long moved to cite authorities. That their own judgement is 23 August 2019 while ours is August 26 2019
Issues of witnesses on subpoena is regulated by the evidence act. That a practice direction cannot override the provisions of the evidence act”.
He said “they sited decisions that are completely not relevant before your lordship he sited case of AG vs Marfa which was a pre-election matter and did not deal with the issue as to whether or not a witness on subpoena whose witness is not accompanied on oath can testify but on other issues of extension of time to testify and same applies with INEC and Yusuf cited by 3rd defendant’s (PDP lawyer Enoidem) so has nothing to do on election subpoena”
Olanikpekun in joining issues said “My lord I concede that Orarume was on August 23, 2019, and Amakri 26 but Orarume was decided by 5 Justices while Amakri was decided by three justices but Okogbuo was decided on Nov 16, 2019, and it is the latest. So would urge the tribunal to follow Okogbuo. Electoral act and evidence act do not conflict but complement themselves”.
Chairman of the tribunal Justice Yusuf Muhammad said “We will need time to go through the authorities cited and nature of objection so that we can decide so in view of authorities cited in opposition to PW1 to testify this tribunal is adjourned to tomorrow (today) for ruling”.