Edo Guber Tribunal Reserves Ruling on Allowing Subpoenaed Witnesses to Testify


Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

The Election Petition Tribunal handling the Edo State governorship election in Benin City tuesday adjourned to enable the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, to call in more witnessed after the respondents objected to calling of witnesses who are not members of the petitioners’ party to testify.

The tribunal also reserved ruling for Wednesday to decide, whether or not to allow subpoenaed witnesses to testify before it.

The PDP and its candidate, during proceedings, after calling two witnesses, PW- 69, 70, and 71, yesterday called in Prosecution Witness (PW 72), Oviosun Enas, of ward 12 Otuo, Owan East Local Government Area of the state.

But Onyeachi Ikpeazu, Ken Mozia and Chief Adeniyi Akintola, all Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and counsel to INEC, Obaseki and APC objected to his being sworn in as a witness.

They argued that since he was never a witness whose deposition statement on oath was among the over 1000 the petitioners front loaded in court, he could not be allowed to testify in the case.

Ikpeazu, counsel to first respondent (INEC), in his objection said a witness whose deposition is not before the tribunal cannot be allowed to give oral evidence.

More so, he said the proposed witness is not a party to the petition; in other words, that he is not a member of the PDP, but another political party whose petition is not before the tribunal.

Ikpeazu’s objection was upheld by counsel to second respondent (Obaseki), Ken Mozia (SAN), who said the intended witness written testimony ought to have been filed pursuant to being subpoenaed.

According to him, “For these reasons as stated by my learned brother, counsel to first respondent and for the additional reason, the proposed witness has no interest in this proceeding being a member of a political party that did not question the outcome of the election, did not file any election petition and is consequently not concern in the matter,” adding that even if a subpoena has been issued, it should be adjudged wrongly issued and cannot be accepted.

Also, in his objection, counsel to APC, Adeniyi Akintola, said there were many witnesses who can come up while the oral evidence of the proposed witness be step down as according to him, a person who is not party to the matter cannot be allowed to give witness.

Their objection was premised on earlier plea by counsel to first petitioner (PDP), Kehinde Elena (SAN) that he could not proceed with the trial as his witnesses in court were all on subpoena.

Elena argued that the petitioners had in their statement of claim indicated that they could call witnesses including subpoenaed witnesses to testify in the case.

He further said that even the tribunal, in its pre-trial order, said that subpoenaed witnesses could be taken but which testimonies could be expunged if discovered not relevant to the case.

Elena noted that “if we are shot out at this stage by refusing to take the subpoenaed witnesses, the petitioners will suffer monumental injustice at the appeal while the respondents will not suffer any injury either way.’’

But the petitioner counsel argued that they could not proceed with calling any more witnesses because “our witnesses arranged for today are all on subpoena.
“We are willing therefore to be allowed to continue tomorrow with other witnesses because our next bunch of witnesses are from Owan West, which journey is not less than three to four hours from here.”

After listening to arguments by counsel to parties, Justice Ahmed Badamasi-led three member tribunal, however, adjourned sitting to today for petitioners to proceed and call other witnesses and reserved ruling to Wednesday on whether or not it will allow the witnesses to testify.