The Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Asaba, has dismissed the prayer of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC from giving oral evidence before the election panel.
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Delta State in the April 11 poll, Olorogun O’Tega Emerhor, is contesting the declaration of Okowa, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the poll, by INEC, as the winner of the governorship election.
Okowa, who is the first respondent, his party, the PDP, and INEC have moved three motions before the tribunal, seeking to stop the electoral umpire from giving oral evidence, aside tendering documents relating to the poll.
The Justice N.U. Gunmi-led three-member tribunal had, on August 12, 2015, issued a subpoena to the Head of ICT Department in INEC and INEC to appear before the tribunal to give evidence as requested by Emerhor and the APC, who are the petitioners.
Counsel for Okowa, Alex Iziyon(SAN), the lawyer representing the PDP, A.T. Kehinde(SAN), and D.D. Dodo, who is the counsel for INEC, had objected to the subpoena and the official giving oral evidence before the panel.
In three motions before the tribunal, the respondents had argued that the petitioners were looking for a way of bringing in additional witnesses, which were not pleaded in their petitions, a move that would contravene an earlier ruling of the tribunal on August 5.
Kehinde, who is the counsel for the PDP, had said the petitioners’ prayer was “a surreptitious way of bringing in additional witnesses, which would be contrary or set aside the ruling of the tribunal on August 5, which refused the petitioners’ application to bring in additional witnesses”.
Counsel for the APC and Emerhor, Thompson Okpoko(SAN), had argued before the tribunal that the objection of Iziyon and Kehinde amounted to “crying more than the bereaved”, as the subpoena was not issued to either Okowa or the PDP.
Ruling on the three motions on Friday, Justice Gunmi agreed with Okpoko that the subpoena to the INEC was not the business of Okowa or the PDP.
“The first respondent (Okowa) and second respondent (PDP) were not served the subpoena and have no right to complain about and cannot dictate which witnesses to call to prove their case,” the judge added.
In dismissing Okowa’s motions, the tribunal chairman said the subpoena issued to INEC was for the concerned official to give both oral evidence and tender relevant documents before the panel.
“The sum total of what we have been saying is that the respondents/applicants have not shown any good reason why the subpoena issued on the 12th of August in this petition should be set aside. They have not shown that it was issued without jurisdiction thereby making the issuance a nullity or that it was obtained by fraud thereby making its setting aside ex debito justitiae possible.
“The net effect of this is that the applications are liable to be dismissed and they are hereby dismissed,” Justice Gunmi said.