INEC Opens Defence In Edo Guber Poll Suit

By Kevin Okunzuwa

Benin  –    INEC  on Friday opened its defence in the petition filed by the PDP  and its candidate in the Sept. 28, 2016  governorship election in Edo,  Mr  Osagie Ize-Iyamu, before  the Justice Ahmed Badamasi three-member tribunal in Benin.

The PDP and its candidate are challenging the declaration by INEC of  Godwin Obaseki of the APC as  winner of the election.

The petitioners  listed INEC, Obaseki and the APC as first, second and third respondents respectively.

The petitioners on Feb. 10 closed their case after calling 91 witnesses and tendering  several documentary pieces of evidence before the tribunal.

At the resumed hearing on Friday, INEC counsel and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN),  Mr Onyeachi Ikpeazu,  informed the tribunal that his client was  ready to open its case although witnesses may not be called.

“ We  have led copious evidence through cross examination of the petitioners’  witnesses.

“We propose to tender few documents when we need to confront them and enhance evidence already led and  at the end of which, if need be, we will call witnesses,’’ he said.

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Ikpeazu thereafter sought the tribunal’s permission to tender as evidence  10 copies of form EC8B, being ward collation result for wards  in Uhunmwonde Local Government Area of the state .

Counsel to the   petitioners (Ize-Iyamu and PDP),  Mr Kemi Pinheiro,  counsel to Obaseki,  Mr Ken Mozia  and APC’s lawyer, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, all did  not oppose the application for tender.

Pinheiro , however, observed that since the documents sought to be tendered as evidence by INEC were same as those before the tribunal as exhibits, “it will make proceeding smoother if we harmonise the documents with a schedule during trial,’’

He argued that the form EC8B document tendered was the  same as exhibit PO4(154-163) tendered by the petitioners.

“ If not harmonised for different exhibit numbers, this will  create precipice of confusion.

“I am saying that since the petitioners’ document and those sought to be  tendered by INEC are from same source, I  thought INEC should call oral witness to identify the exhibits before the tribunal,’’ he said.

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Ipeazu, however,  replied saying,  “we have brought documents we have front loaded to support our case. They have done theirs; it is not for the petitioners to determine  how we should organise our defence even if these documents are the  same.’’

“ I am therefore asking for  an adjournment to Monday  while I  concede to the suggestion that parties examine the documents sought to be tendered.

“I also intend to interact with electoral officers we may call as to who  I  wish to tender as witnesses,’’ he added.

Ruling, the tribunal  chairman admitted the documents as exhibit IR(1-10)  and ordered INEC to serve the petitioners and the other respondents with its schedule of the other documents to be tendered before the tribunal.

Badamasi also ruled that parties should use Saturday to examine INEC documents sought to be tendered and adjourned till Monday.

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