Lagos Gov Poll: Tribunal Refuses Testimony Of Subpoenaed Witness In Rhodes-Vivour’s Petition

The Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday refused to allow the testimony of a witness, Erastus Ofoma, subpoenaed by the candidate of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour in the March 18 election held in the state.

The Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Arum Ashom, who read the ruling, held that the witness’ statement on oath was uploaded out of time and outside the 21 days stipulated under the Electoral Act.

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Other members of the tribunal are Justice Mikail Abdullahi and Justice Igho Braimoh.

Lead counsel to the petitioner, Dr. Olumide Ayeni, SAN, had informed the tribunal of his intention to call the subpoenaed witness, Ofoma.

He said the witness had deposed to his statement on oath and same had been served to the respondents.

While counsel representing INEC, Eric Obigor, confirmed service, counsel to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Bode Olanipekun, SAN and counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Norrison Quakers, SAN, raised objections to calling the witness.

They said Erastus Ofoma was not one of the witnesses on the list that accompanied the petition.

Olanipekun specifically said that there was no indication on the list that any witness was going to be subpoenaed to appear before the tribunal.

He also pointed out that the tribunal had found itself in a similar situation to the Court of Appeal in the case of Ararume vs INEC. He argued that in the case, an objection was taken to evidence being deposed outside 21 days as provided for in the presentation of petitions.

He said all the justices of the appellate court were unanimous in their decision that the subpoenaed witness whose statement was not front-loaded could not give evidence.

Quakers, who aligned with Olanipekun’s submission, further stated that during the pre-action protocol of the tribunal on June 5, the list of witnesses presented did not suggest that a subpoenaed witness was going to be presented.

Citing the provisions of the Electoral Act, 1st Schedule, Paragraph 4, he said, “It is a mandatory provision to comply with, that election petitions shall be accompanied with the list of witnesses to be called and their statements on oath.

“The petitioner cannot ambush respondents and the tribunal. At pre-hearing protocol, all applications have been closed.

“I urge the tribunal to discountenance the witness purportedly being subpoenaed in the person of Ofoma. It is a violation of the Electoral Act.”

After listening to the arguments and counter-arguments, the tribunal upheld the submissions of the respondents counsel.

Following the ruling, the petitioner’s counsel then applied that the same witness be allowed to testify orally and without a witness statement. This led to another round of objections and the tribunal adjourned its ruling till Friday, June 16.

The tribunal however listened to the testimony of two more witnesses of the petitioner. One of them, Oluwaseun Okanlawon, who was called before the subpoenaed witness, told the tribunal that he was testifying as an INEC-appointed ward coordinator and collation officer.

He said, “INEC appointed me to coordinate the ward, although I did not report what happened to them. I was appointed as a collation officer and the entire polling unit agents report to me.”

He also stated that the events on the election day, March 18, was pre-planned.

When asked how he knew the events were pre-planned, he said, “On the eve of the election, I saw people gathered in clusters in different parts of my ward in Surulere, so it was obvious that the event had been pre-planned.”

Olanipekun referred the witness to paragraph eight of his statement on oath, where he said voters were intimidated and threatened and asked if the voters were still alive, to which Okanlawon answered that they were still alive.

Olanipekun also asked the witness how he knew the number of registered voters were outnumbered and how many non-accredited voters were allowed to vote in the 52 polling units in his ward.

Okanlawon responded that he did not know.

Okanlawon kept mute when questioned by Quakers on the veracity of the claims he made in paragraphs six, eight and 26 of his statement on oath, where he wrote that the first and second respondents, the governor and his deputy sponsored thugs who were “armed to the teeth,” and who conspired to attack voters who did not intend to cast votes in their favour.


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