AS election petition tribunals approach the mandatory terminal period when all cases must be decided across the country, there is anxiety in Delta State over the likely outcome of the governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Asaba.
The tribunal had adjourned for two weeks to resume on October 13, 2015 for submission and adoption of written addresses.
Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, had approached the tribunal challenging the conduct of the polls and declaration of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as winner.
At the last sitting, the Justice Nasiru Gunmi-led three-man panel directed that respondents file and serve final written addresses on the petitioners within five days beginning from October 2, 2015, while the petitioners were to file and serve their final written addresses to the respondents within five days of acknowledgment of respondents’ service.
Emerhor opened his case at the resumed hearing on August 25, 2015 when his counsel, Chief Thompson Okpoko, SAN, called on two Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria, INEC, witnesses to tender documents and give oral evidence before the tribunal.
Evidence Before The Tribunal
Okpoko led Mrs. Abimbola Olagunjoye, Assistant Director, Information and Communication Technology, ICT, Department at INEC’s head office in Abuja, as first witness to tender four documents including card readers’ accreditation report uploaded from INEC central server.
The INEC accreditation report tendered through Mrs. Olagunjoye showed that the number of accredited voters for the April 11 governorship election in the state was lower than the results announced by electoral officials after the polls.
Other documents tendered by INEC at the hearing include manual for election officials 2015, INEC’s April 2, 2015 press statement affirming accreditation through use of card readers for the governorship election and guidelines for the conduct of 2015 general election.
In their testimony, the INEC officials said: “All documents tendered were duly certified by INEC. The card reader has three functions. The functions are identification of voters, verification of Permanent Voters’ Card,PVC, holder and voter’s authentication on Election Day.”
She further told the tribunal that: “The card readers recorded no sustained failure during the governorship election in Delta State and accredited numbers of voters as at April 29 was 709,000 and at the expiration of the shutting down of data upload, the final tally was 715,393.”
However, while declaring the result of the election INEC had put the figure of accredited voters at 1,017,796, significantly exceeding actual accreditation number revealed by the admitted report obtained from INEC central server.
Objecting to admissibility of these documents, Okowa’s counsel, Dr Alex Izinyon, SAN; PDP’s counsel, Timothy Kehinde, SAN; and counsel for INEC, Damien Dodo, SAN, averred that the documents were not listed, pleaded or properly certified.
Counsel to the petitioner and APC, Okpoko, argued that the documents tendered by INEC were pleaded, adding that it was stated in Paragraph 4 of the petitioner’s reply to the first respondent’s reply to the petition.
In his ruling, Justice Nasiru Gunmi said: “We have examined this application on the face of the document tendered and we are satisfied that the document satisfies the requirement of Section 104 (2) of the Evidence Act to justify the admission of these documents.
“We therefore overrule the objection to admission of this document, and therefore admit the documents as exhibits PW1A and PW1B.”
Emerhor’s counsel while examining his witness, Mr. Ore Ohimor, tendered Form EC8A and unit by unit election result sheets for the 25 local councils of the state.
Admissibility of Document
The tribunal also dismissed objections by the counsel to the respondent to the admissibility of the document and thereafter admitted it as exhibit.
Governor Okowa opened his defence, as his star witness, Chief Festus Ovie Agas, who is Secretary to the State Government, SSG, was cross examined.
Okowa’s counsel, Izyon leading Mrs. Ehikhametalo Mercy, a staff of the electoral umpire working in the Delta State office of the commission, had sought to tender four documents through her as exhibits.
Rejecting the document, the tribunal noted: “We believe that the objections of Okpoko (SAN) to the admissibility of these documents are germane. The two documents sought to be tendered are computer generated. There is nothing on the face of the document to show that it complied with section 84 of the Evidence Act. In view of this, we hereby agree that the documents are not admissible and are hereby rejected”.
Ehikhametalo had claimed that the Card Readers failed in many places she monitored in Isoko North.
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