Monday, 31 August 2015

Why Tribunal Adjourned Sitting In Ogun State

What could have resulted in a serious crisis on Saturday, August 29 was averted at the Ogun State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta.

A session was hurriedly abandoned after the panel received a security report of imminent attack by some political hoodlums.

It was the last day for the petitioners to close their case after calling the last witness and allow the respondents to open their defence.

A small generator was brought to the court in the instance of the tribunal to illuminate the court room which was becoming darker as there was no supply of electricity.

As the cross examination of the last witness, Benjamin Ibikunle (PW9) was being conducted by the counsel to the first respondent, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), one of the police officers attached to the court approached the judges informing them of imminent attack on the court.

Heavily armed police officers were immediately drafted to the court premises while Fagbemi was allowed to hurriedly conclude his cross examination on the witness.

Addressing the court, chairman of the tribunal, Justice Henry Olusiyi said the leaders of the political parties should admonish their followers to eschew needless violence adding that they needed to protect the good image of the state.

According to him: “We just got a report that some people are planning to attack, all the leaders of the parties are here, we want you to appeal to your supporters, the state has maitained it’s good name.

“Appeal to your supporters, it is not  good thing that the tribunal is sitting and some people are planning to attack. So far, it has been smooth sailing, there is no point attacking anybody, we are here to do justice and there is no point attacking, don’t spoil the good name.

“Why the threat of attack? It doesn’t make any sense, we are doing what God has asked us to do, it is impossible for anybody unless God is no more on our side, there is no point, tell your supporters”

Meanwhile, the petition had earlier suffered a set back as the tribunal rejected ballot papers packed in over 80 INEC transparent bags from being admitted and marked as exhibit before the court.

The petitioners have moved to tender the ballot papers in their thousands as evidence through PW9 but was vehemently objected by the Respondents.

Opposing the oral application as moved my Oyeyipo, Fagbemi told the court that PW9 lacks the competence to tender original public documents  when no proper foundation has been laid for such.

Citing Anatogu vs Iweka II, 1995, Fagbemi insisted that allowing the witness to tender the documents would run foul of section 83 (1)(2) of the Evidence Act.

He said, “They are original public documents, the witness is not a public officer, the documents are original INEC documents and the witness is not an INEC official.

I am aware it was the Subpoenaed who brought this document, this witness can not answer any question as to the genuineness of this documents especially when  no proper foundation has been laid.

If it is CTC, there is no contention but these are public documents, the person who can tender is the one who can answer questions on it. You can leverage on the situation you created yourself, why was the Subpoena witness not invited to tender the documents?”

Both counsel to 2nd and 3rd respondents also aligned with Fagbemi.

Ruling on the application, Justice Olusiyi maitained that the documents were not admissible through the witness saying such the witness did not satisfy the provisions of section 83 (1)(2) of the Evidence Act, 2011.

He said: “We have carefully considered the submission of counsel,these documents are undoubtedly original public document, the witness is not a maker of the ballot papers. PW9 is not an INEC official and the petitioners have not shown to us the circumstance to admit the document through him.

No reason has been given for not calling the maker to tender the documents, they are not legally admissible through him. The documents are not legally admissible in evidence because doing so will amount to hearsay. They are not admitted in evidence and marked rejected number 1″, Olusiyi added.