Proceedings at the Tribunal today. 27th August 2019 took a different and unexpected turn. Like a scene reminiscent of a boxing bout, 2nd and 3rd respondents; PDP and INEC respectively threw-in the towel. In other words, they both declined from calling witnesses. While PDP declined from calling additional witnesses, INEC failed to call any at all. The drama started at commencement of proceedings when Counsel to 2nd Respondent, Tayo Oyetibo ( SAN ) rose to inform the Tribunal “My Lord, we have reviewed our evidence so far and have come to the conclusion that there is no longer need to call additional witnesses. We have decided to close our case at this stage”.
Immediately following suite, Silva Oguemoh ( SAN ) counsel to 3rd respondent, told the Tribunal ” My Lord, you gave us the opportunity to review our defence when you mentioned that INEC shall commence its defence after the 2nd respondent. We have reviewed our evidence alongside the petitioner’s witnesses and have come to the inevitable conclusion to justify our not calling up additional witnesses having diligently considered the evidence led by the 1st Respondent. We are therefore of the opinion that calling additional witnesses will not serve any useful purpose. In the circumstance, we adopt the evidence of 1st and 2nd Respondents as our evidence. We shall be happy for your Lordships to call for final addresses standing on the over riding powers of the Tribunal”.
Responding to the development, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu said “Tribunal welcomes this development. I will like the senior silks to put their heads together and advice the Tribunal”.
Counsel on both sides thereupon proceeded to confer with each other after which the most senior counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) addressed the Tribunal on behalf of his colleagues. He said ” my Lord, having put our heads together, we have agreed that rather than 10 days required by law to file address and 5 days to file a reply; taking cognizance of time constraints, we have mutually agreed to abridge our time to allow your Lordships sufficient time to write their ruling. Rather than 10 days, we shall take 5 days to file our addreses and 3 to file reply instead of 5 days. We believe that we shall comply with this time-line. By so doing my Lord will have enough time to write his judgment. I pray my Lord will adopt our proposal. Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice A. M. Yakubu thanked the learned senior counsel saying “I am not surprised at this development following the calibre of counsel involved”.
Bearing respondents legal tactics, this development was foreseeable following observable dearth or draught of witnesses willing to come up to testify for the Respondents. Within the spectrum of 10 days alloted to each respondent for witness examination, 1st Respondent took 2 days on a frivolous adjournment, 5 days for witness examination and forfeited 3 days. 2nd respondent was equally allotted 10 days for witness examination but utilised only 2 and forfeited 8 days. 3rd respondent INEC most disappointingly did not call any witness at all forfeiting all 10 days alloted to it. It is regrettable that INEC that conducted the election did not have or see any reason why it should call witnesses to defend their actions and inactions at least to convince the Tribunal that truly INEC conducted a free, fair and transparent election in Akwa Ibom state as boasted by the state REC, Mike Igini.
That 2nd and 3rd respondents threw-in the towel is infact not surprising but puzzling. Question is; how come that PDP whose candidate allegedly won the election and INEC who superintended over the election declaring the outcome flawless not rise up with multiple evidence (hard and oral) to defend the result. It is uncommon and hardly ever heard of that someone who clinched victory in a sporting event or any event thereof cannot proof how he or she earned or secured the victory. This is the dilemma before Justice A. M. Yakubu and the panel of justices. That is, how Deacon Udom Emmanuel and PDP secured victory in the March, 09th 2019 governorship election supervised by INEC.
The world is watching.
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