Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tribunal rejects new witnesses in petition against Oshiomhole’s election

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An appeal for the cancellation of Adams Oshiomhole’s election suffers another setback

The Edo state Election Tribunal on Tuesday barred the calling for more witnesses in the trial against the election of Adams Oshiomhole as governor, thus posing a major setback to challenger, Ehigie Airhiavbere’s push for a cancellation of the July poll.

The panel struck out Mr. Airhiavbere’s application seeking to file additional witnesses and amend statements of registered witnesses.

It also blocked the introduction of more paragraphs of the petition, before adjourning to October 23. The trial proper is set to commence for same date.

Mr. Airhiavbere, who stood for the keenly contested election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, urged the tribunal to declare Mr. Oshiomhole unfit for the elections, claiming the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN candidate, lacked the required educational qualification for the office.

He also blamed his defeat on the alleged use of an invalid voters’ register.

He accused poll officials of deploying amended register for the election against an understanding that an updated 2011 elections register be used.

Allegations on the governor’s qualification were struck out by the court on September 27, 2012, as the tribunal ruled that that was a pre-election matter.

The retired major general has pressed on with the case against his party’s directive that the case be discontinued.

The PDP has denounced the move, saying it would only end up in a prolonged litigation that could further imperil the party’s chances in future elections in the state.

Chairman of the Tribunal, Suleiman Ambrusa, said the tribunal was unable to grant the request for more statements from witnesses as requested by the petitioner as they had to do with the issue of qualification earlier rejected by the tribunal.

Mr. Ambrusa also directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to make the contentious voters register available to the petitioner as requested in order.

Neither the petitioner, nor officials of his party were present in court; whereas Edo State government officials attended the hearing.

Mr. Airhiavbere also sought two weeks extension, a request opposed by the ACN team.

“The petitioner is not serious,” said Adetunji Oyeyipo, counsel to ACN. “If you look at whatever is left in his petition, they have witness deposition in only five local government councils and the witness depositions cover only 51 units across these five councils. So, their complaints covers only less than one per cent of the total units.

“We are all seasoned lawyers, I don’t know if it will take the petitioner two weeks to prepare witnesses in respect of 51 units.”

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