Edo Guber: Legal Fireworks as Parties Adopt Written Addresses. Tribunal Set To Give Judgment

It was fierce legal firepower on Monday at the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal, in Benin, as parties in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, challenging the declaration of Godwin Obaseki as the winner‎ of the September 28, 2016 governorship election in the state, adopted written addresses.
Lead Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, who opened address, said the burden was on the petitioners to prove their case in all the polling units they alleged electoral mlpractices.
Ikpeazu, who recalled‎ that the petitioners had called 29 witnesses, who gave evidence in respect of 29 polling units, argued that if the tribunal were to act on settled cases, the evidence from 29 polling units cannot affect the entire election.
He therefore urged the court to rely on the provisions of section 138 sub-section (2) of the Electoral Act, contending that non-compliance with guidelines of instructions for election cannot‎ erode the provisions of the Electoral Act.
According him, the argument‎ of ticking register or non-ticking amounted to no issue, urging the tribunal to hold that issue was immaterial.
On the issue of INEC not calling evidence raised by‎ the petitioners, Ikpeazu said by the results of every polling unit before the court, the electoral body has called evidence, even as he added that by cross-examining witnesses, INEC has also called witnesses, stressing that there was a difference between calling evidence and witnesses.
On the issue of over voting alleged by the petitioners, the INEC counsel‎ argued that the only way they could show over voting was to tender the voters’ register, ballot papers and establish over voting after the ballots had been counted.
“The ballot papers have not been counted, therefore, there is no way over voting can be proved,” Ikpeazu said, pointing out that the petitioners invented figures that were ‎not before the tribunal and were contradictory to the pleadings and evidence they led.
He therefore urged the tribunal to hold that the petitioners abandoned their pleading.
The real legal fire work however began when counsel to Governor Obaseki, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who led other laywers, urged the tribunal‎ to dismiss the petition because the petitioner’s identity was doubtful, as he is different from the person sponsored by the PDP for the election.
Olanipekun based his argument on the fact that whereas, the petitioner’s identity was stated as Pastor Osagie Andrew Ize-Iyamu, his identity in INEC documents did not bear Pastor and Andrew.
Besides, he argued that the petitioners did not find anything on the relief they sought, contending that since that was the case, they have abandoned their case.
Olanipekun also argued that he was not aware of any ballot recount, as the result of the counting was not admitted in evidence.
Citing Supreme Court decisions,‎ Olanipekun said document brought for identification without tendering evidence was of no issue, even as he drew a distinction between Oshiomhole and Agagu’s cases and pointed out that after the counting of their ballot papers, the report of the counting was tendered in court unlike the instant case.
He also argued that in two senatorial districts, the petitioners did not call any witness, yet they want the entire election in Edo State nullified.
Counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who led other lawyers, aligned himself with the submissions of Ikpeazu and Olanipekun.
He said the petition has “failed in stem and branches” and urged the tribunal to dismiss it.
He said even if the tribunal believed the result computed by the petitioners, the APC still won the election with 59,696 with spread in two-third of the 18 local government areas of the state.
Responding to the submissions by counsel to the 1st to 3rd defendants, counsel to the petitioners, Yusuf Alli, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by the petitioners, saying it was the most logical thing to do.
Alli, who listed 10 reasons why the petition should succeed, described it “as unusual petition.”
Among the 10 reasons, Alli argued that all the allegations of non-compliance were made against INEC deliberately, that by virtue of the allegations in the petition, only INEC can answer, that INEC failed to call any witness to answer the allegations.
He argued that authorities cited by the respondents’ counsel were irrelevant to the instant case because of its peculiar nature.
On Ize-Iyamu’s personality, he said his identity was not in doubt, as only the PDP that presented him can disown him.
Alli, therefore, urged the tribunal “to hold that there is merit in all the complaints of the petitioners and that the result is that they are entitled to be declared winners of the election.”
The Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, after listening to addresses of counsel to parties in the petition, announced that the date of judgment would be communicated to them.

Author: News Editor

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