Edo: After legal fireworks, tribunal rules
The two parties were engaged in legal fireworks as they tried to outwit each other and buttress their points on the law before the three-man panel led by Justice Ahmed Badamasi.
Penultimate Monday, April 3, 2017, the two parties closed their cases.Interestingly, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki of the APC and the PDP governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, are expected to know their fate as the election tribunal reserves judgment for a date yet to be announced.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the PDP had kicked against the outcome of the September 28 governorship election, which threw up governor Obaseki as the winner of the contest. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Obaseki winner of the election after he polled 319,483 as against 253,173 polled by Ize-Iyamu.
Following the inauguration of the three-man tribunal panel in 2016, headed by Justice Badamasi, Ize-Iyamu told the tribunal that he won the elections.
Ize Iyamu’s grounds of argument was hinged on his petition “that the 2nd Respondent (Obaseki) was not duly elected by the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election. That the election of the 2nd Respondent was invalid by reason of noncompliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. That the election of the 2nd Respondent was invalid by reason of corrupt practices.”
In an effort to outwit each other, both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu assembled topnotch legal icons to drive home their cases.Yusuf Ali, SAN, who represented Ize-Iyamu urged the tribunal to disregard the submissions made by Counsels to the Respondents, boasted that “I have 10 points why this tribunal should grant our prayers. We have proved our evidence before this tribunal and everything pointed at INEC, that they did not conduct the election according to the electoral laws. And even the Respondent agreed with us that the election was not free and fair during proceedings. I want to call your attention to ten important points in this matter to show your Lordship that this petition ought to succeed. This is an unusual petition unfortunately being fought in the usual way. It is a 24th century petition of which my colleagues on the other side have deployed 18th century equipment. Olanipekun is saying that manual is useless but the Supreme Court said in Faleke VS INEC, that manuals are relevant in an election.”
Leading Obaseki’s legal team is a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Wole Olanipekun. SAN.In his argument, Olanipekun was quick to point out that Ize-Iyamu had issues with his identity and the need for his petition to be dismissed by the panel.
The former NBA president stated that; “we have issues with the identity of the petitioner because we have conflicting names given to us by the petition. Apart from that the petitioners abandoned their case completely and pursued the issue of counting without providing evidence to proof their case. If there is any petition crying for evidence this is one, my Lord. It should be dismissed.”
In addition, Olanipekun said: “who is the petitioner, what is his identity? In the body of the petition we have Pastor Ize-Iyamu Osagie Andrew, while in his party’s nomination form, he described himself as Osagie Ize-Iyamu. We have submitted to you, your Lordships, that is not the name of the person sponsored by the political party to contest the election on its behalf. They have filed a reply and they compounded the matter beyond redemption. In the Supreme Court decision, if you are AT, or TA, you cannot say you are TJ. These are binding decisions of the Supreme Court; we urged your Lordships to apply them because there must be certainty of the person who is the petitioner and I will say my lord, for now, there is no certainty and rather than addressing the matter they compounded it the more in their counter affidavit.”
Counsel to the APC is Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, in his argument posited that the request for nullification of the polls was useless.Fagbemi said: “From all we have seen by the petitioner, there is a disconnect between the petition, the evidence and written addresses. The petitioner called witnesses without providing the evidence. In an election matter where there is a request for nullification, the onus lies on the petitioner to proof. Your Lordship cannot grant an order, which is totally useless.”
He was, however, quick to point out that “Even if my Lords, for instance, decides to grant them the mathematics they are doing, despite all their pitfalls, Obaseki will still win with 58, 696 votes.”
Fagbemi further asserted that; “what is left in the petition after the petitioner removed the issue of corrupt practices during the election is a carcass. There is a difference between calling witnesses and calling evidence. What the petitioners have done in this case is to call witnesses without calling evidence and from that angle I urge your Lordship to dismiss this petition. From time immemorial, over-voting, non-accreditation have always qualified as species of malpractices and therefore my Lord, it is a matter bothering on criminality. There is no doubt about what standard that is required; the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. But they failed to meet up with this. In respect of the tables provided by the petitioners, they are uncalled for. There is a total disconnect between the petition, the evidence, and the written address.
However our evidence, however brilliant submissions counsels may be, they cannot take the places of pleadings because pleadings are the primary source from which all other matters are derived.
“Even the first petitioner who had the opportunity to identify the documents that he had made reference to in his pleadings did not make use of the opportunity. He was busy trying to sort out things forgetting that this is a matter regulated by procedure and time. His deposition comes to naught because there is no leg for which that deposition can stand.”After the fireworks, here comes the judgment!
• Igbinidu, a policy analyst, sent this piece from Uromi, Edo State.
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