Ortom opens, closes defence at election tribunal

GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom of Benue State, second respondent in the ongoing Governorship Election Petition tribunal holding in Makurdi, capital of Benue State, appeared before the Tribunal on Saturday morning.

“We have critically looked at the evidence led by the petitioners and we have come to the conclusion that we need not call any more witnesses. The burden (of proof) is on the learned brother and his team (for the petitioners). Here we close the case of the second respondent,” the governor’s counsel, Sebastine Hon, submitted.

Ortom’s counsel, however, applied for the registers of voters tendered by the petitioner. The registers were tendered by Emmanuel Jime to prove that there was no accreditation in 12 local government areas.

Counsel to the third respondent (PDP), Oba Maduabushi, called five witnesses and applied for adjournment to open his defence.

Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Henry Olusiyi, adjourned the case to August 19 for the third respondent to open his defence.

Governor Ortom also expressed confidence in coming out victorious at the tribunal. Ortom told journalists that the election that brought him to office for second term was free and fair.

“The election was free. I am very optimistic that the court will give me justice because I won the election,” he said.

Lead counsel to the governor, Sabastine Hon, explained that Ortom closed his case “after calling evidence in our estimation. Having regards to the evidence led by the petitioner, we concluded there is no need to call any further evidence. We closed the case and we are very hopeful.”

Hon further noted that the petitioner, who is a major witness, did not sign his witness statement.

On his part, counsel to Emmanuel Jime, Kehinde Eleja, said petitioners had put his case forward and issues had been joined concerning the card reader.

“If you go by the records contained in the card readers, the votes that were ultimately returned were different, which is evidence of irregularities at the election, among others.

“They called a witness yesterday in response to 59 witnesses that we called. It is now for the court to decide whether or not card reader is relevant to this case. I believe that we have done the needful and we hope for the best,” Eleja said.

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