… Tribunal turns down APC, O’tega’s Docts.
… Your Method is Crude, Unknown to Law- PDP, INEC yells
The Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba yesterday rejected attempt by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and its gubernatorial candidate in the governorship election, Olorogun Otega Emerhor, to tender election documents they brought to the tribunal through INEC official.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, counsel to APC and Olorogun Otega Emerhor had moved a motion to call an INEC witness to tender unit by unit election results of the 25 local government areas of the state. The results sought to be tendered in court are forms EC8E and EC8D.
As soon as the INEC witness mounted the box, in the bid to make the necessary introduction, counsel to INEC,Mr. Anumoye Onyeye interjected, drawing the attention of the tribunal to the fact that, the document sought to be tendered has been in the custody of APC for over twenty- four hours ago.
Anumoye told the tribunal that since the document has been in the custody of APC and O’tega’s counsels, INEC could not guaranty the authenticity of the document. He sought the leave of the court to disallow the INEC witness from tendering the said document and that the document should rather be tendered through APC witness.
After listening to the argument of other respondents counsel, namely Counsels to INEC, PDP and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa , Mr. Ken Mozie (SAN), Mr. Timothy Kehinde (SAN) and Animoye O, respectively , Chairman of the Tribunal Justice Nasiru Gunmi ordered the witness who was yet to give his name to step out from the witness box and leave the courtroom.
The prompted APC counsel , Chief Thomson Okpoko to call a second witness, one Mr. Oreh Ohimor, a lawyer and the Director of Administration and Operations in Otega’s campaign organization.
Soon after the Ohimor entered the witness stand, Okopko , sought the leave of the court to tender a unite by unite election result sheets as contained in form EC8 A through him.
This move elicited another round of argument as the respondents counsels randomly objected to the plan.
Counsels to INEC, PDP and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa , Mr. Ken Mozie (SAN), Mr. Timothy Kehinde (SAN) and Animoye O, respectively raised the alarm that the petitioners counsel , Chief Thomson Okpokor(SAN), is trying to tender electoral documents through the back door, and applying non-legal methods in the prosecution of their case.
In a swift reaction, Ken Mozie (SAN), a lead counsel to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, vehemently opposed the moved arguing that the documents sought to be tendered was not pleaded nor listed in the witness statement on oath.
He posited that the documents listed in the witness statement on oath are form EC8D and EC8E and not form EC8A and that any attempt to tender form EC8A would amount to subverting due process and obtaining justice through the back door.
He said “we object to the admissibility of these documents, the fundamental foundational requirement where not met , in paragraph 14 of the witness statement, only form EC8D and form EC8E were pleaded , in their reply to our reply, it was not pleaded, no reference was made to the document sought to be tendered, listing the document will not cure it if it was not accommodated in their pleading. He urged the tribunal to reject it”.
In his submission, counsel to PDP, Timothy Kehinde (SAN) pointed out that it is an elementary principles of law to put the parties on notice and not by surprise , as the document sought to be tendered must be spercifically pleaded .
He said an unleaded document cannot be admitted even when the document was mentioned in the witness statement , adding that in the instant cases, the document was not mention in the witness statement on oath neither was it pleaded.
INEC counsel, O. Anumonye while arguing in the same vein, pointed out that “the document sought to be tendered by APC and Otega were not refereed in the witness deposition”, adding that “having pleaded over voting by tendering forms EC8D and form EC8E, pleading form EC8A will constitute springing a surprise.
In two brief rulings , the chairman of the three-man panel of the tribunal , Justice Nasiru Gunmi rejected the move by APC to tendered local government result. But in another ruling , Justice Gunmi accepted the unit by unit election results tendered as exhibits.