The Independent National Eletoral Commission (INEC) on Friday failed to open the defence of how it conducted the September 28 Edo State governorship election before the Edo State governorship election petition tribunal, asking the tribunal to adjourn proceedings to Monday, February 20, 2017.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, are challenging the declaration by INEC of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the election and have listed INEC, Obaseki and the APC as first, second and third respondents respectively.
The petititoners had on February 10, 2017, closed their case after calling on 91 witnesses and tendered several documentary pieces of evidence before the tribunal, leaving the electoral body with the task of defending itself.
At the resumed hearing on Friday, counsel to INEC, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), who had earlier informed the tribunal that “INEC was ready to open its case, however, noted that he might not call on witnesses, but tender documents to back its claims.”
“He said, “We propose to tender few documents we need to confront them and enhance evidence already led. At the end, if need be, we will call witnesses,”
Ikpeazu thereafter sought the tribunal’s permision to tender 10 copies of form EC8B, which are results collated in Uhunmwonde Local Government area of the state, as evidence.
Counsel to Obaseki and APC, Mr Ken Mozia (SAN) and Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) respectively, did not oppose the application, but counsel to the petitioners, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), observed that since the documents sought to be tendered as evidence by INEC were same as those already before the tribunal as exhibits, “it would be proper if the documents were harmonised so as to avoid confusion.”
“He argued that the form EC8B document tendered was same as exhibit PO4 (154-163) tendered by the petitioners and if not harmonized for different exhibit numbers, “it will will create precipice of confusion.”
Ikpeazu, however replied saying , “we have brought documents we have frontloaded to support our case. They have done theirs; it is not for the petitioners to detect how we should organize our defence even if these documents are same.”
He further asked for adjournment to Monday so that parties in the case will be able to examine the documents sought to be tendered.
Ruling, the tribunal 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.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ahmed Badamasi also ruled that parties should use Saturday to examine INEC documents sought to be tendered and adjourned till Monday.