Ekiti Poll: Tribunal refuses granting petitioners leave to call additional witness
The Ekiti Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday refused to permit the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the July 14 election in the state, Prof. Olusola Kolapo, leave to call additional witness.
PDP and Kolapo are challenging the outcome of the election in which Gov. Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared winner.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC and Gov.Kayode Fayemi are the respondents in the petition.
Ruling on the application, the Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Suleiman Belgore, declared that the application could not be granted because it had no place in the petition or pleading.
The application was filed by the petitioners and argued by Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) on Wednesday.
Belgore stated that if granted, it would have the effect of amending the petition surreptitiously, adding that there was no discretion to be exercised by the tribunal in such matter as clear as this.
He said the circumstances painted or enumerated as justifying the application might be fair or real but the proceeding was a special one and being sui generis (unique or occupying a class of its own)
The chairman said by the development, the petitioners/Applicants had to live by it, adding that the law was so clear and unambiguous.
“This application is hereby refused,’’ he said.
The tribunal noted that what the petitioners sought to do with the application was to call one Dr Vincent Okaa as an additional witness.
It, however, that declared that the Okaa was not listed as a witness on the petitioners’ list of witnesses.
The tribunal stated that if the additional witness was allowed, he would tender two reports of the inspection carried out and obtained after the filing of the petition and put in his statement on oath.
The tribunal asked that if it allowed for an additional witness, whether ordinary or expert, if it will be fair to bring any evidence; whether in form of an inspection or otherwise at this stage of proceeding.
According to Belgore, the answers to these questions can be found in Paragraph 4(5) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the case of Oke vs Mimiko.
The Schedule, he noted, provided that election petition shall be accompanied by a list of witnesses that the petitioner intends to call in proof of the petition; a written statement on oath of the witnesses and a list of every document to be relied upon at the hearing.
He held that the report of the inspection procured after filing the petition “certainly does not exist in the list of documents in the petition.”
Belgore also declared that what the petitioners intended now had no place in the pleading or the petition, adding that the application lacked in merit.
Adelodun had on Wednesday, while moving the application, urged the tribunal to grant the petitioners’ permission to enable them call an additional witness, Okaa, an expert, to testify for them.
The senior advocate submitted that the tribunal could exercise its discretion to permit the petitioners to call Okaa as their additional witness.
The petitioners tendered more certified true copies of Form EC40A (Ballot Paper Account and Verification Statement) in evidence before the tribunal.
A total of 694 Forms EC40A were tendered for Emure LG (79); Gbonyin (86); Moba (101); Ido-Osi (129),Ijero (130), Ekiti West (150) and Ekiti South-west(19) all were admitted by the tribunal.
Meanwhile, the petitioners have closed their case before the tribunal, paving way for the respondents to begin their defence.
They called 71 witnesses, among who was Prof. Kolapo, the PDP candidate in the election in contention, Sunday Olowolafe, PDP Legal Adviser in Ekiti State and state collation agent.
Other witnesses who were polling unit agents during the election alleged deliberate voiding of valid votes meant for PDP, alteration of results and over voting.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has adjourned sitting till Nov. 5 to enable INEC open its defence