The election petition tribunal for Delta state governorship election sitting in Asaba, yesterday, September 1, declared a management staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Felix Enabor a hostile witness.
The governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Great Ogboru in the petition is challenging the return of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa of the Peoples Democratic Party in the April 11 election by INEC at the Delta tribunal.
Enabor who was the witness had been shown his witness statement and taken on oath which was administered by counsel to the petitioners, Robert Emukpoeruo, but Enabor’s statement was picked on as giving adverse evidence against the petitioners.
Emukpoeruo applied to the tribunal for the witness to be declared hostile animus, relying on Section 230 of the Evidence Act, 2011 and citing certain paragraphs in the deposition on oath, which bothered on alleged commission of crime.
The counsel said that whereas the subpoena served on the witness was directed to give specific testimony on the petition that Enabor had gone outside the petition and the subpoena to make up criminal allegations.
Arguing further, the counsel said that the witness has treated the petitioners as enemies with his deposition which he further insisted was full of hostility and thus would have adverse effect on the case of the petitioners.
However, counsels to governor Okowa, PDP and INEC, Alex Iziyon, Timothy Kehinde and Onyechi Ikpeazu at the Delta tribunal vehemently opposed the application describing the move as very bizarre and unknown to law, and that section 230 of the Evidence Act has not been complied with.
Iziyon pointed out that the request to label the witness as hostile and animus is not automatic as it cannot be invoked.
He said that the petitioner is the one providing the witness upon an application and that it is his witness, were the procedure is by deposition particularly if the witness is adverse to his case to election petition they have taken a gamble, they either swim or sink with the witness they have called.
On another hand, one of the counsels to PDP, Kehinde opposed the application and said that the condition precedent for the tribunal to exercise such decision has not been met.
Kehinde said: “a party producing a witness is under obligation not to be allowed to impugn on the credibility of his witness by general conduct or behavior,” adding that “there is no doubt that the witness is at the command of the tribunal, whose sole duty it is to help the tribunal to arrive at a just decision and not under any obligation to give evidence that is favorable to the parties except to say the truth.”
The presiding chairman of the National Assembly election tribunal for Anambra state, Justice Nayai Aganaba has warned INEC against disregarding orders from the tribunal.