The electoral commission, INEC, on Friday opened its defence in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate in the September 28, 2016 governorship election in Edo, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, before the Justice Ahmed Badamasi three-member tribunal in Benin.
The PDP and its candidate are challenging the declaration by INEC of Godwin Obaseki of the APC as winner of the election.
The petitioners listed INEC, Obaseki and the APC as first, second and third respondents respectively.
The petitioners on February 10 closed their case after calling 91 witnesses and tendering several documentary pieces of evidence before the tribunal.
At the resumed hearing on Friday, the INEC counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, informed the tribunal that his client was ready to open its case although witnesses may not be called.
“We have led copious evidence through cross examination of the petitioners’ witnesses.
“We propose to tender few documents when we need to confront them and enhance evidence already led and at the end of which, if need be, we will call witnesses,” he said.
Mr. Ikpeazu thereafter sought the tribunal’s permission to tender as evidence 10 copies of form EC8B, being ward collation result for wards in Uhunmwonde Local Government Area of the state .
The counsel to the petitioners, Ize-Iyamu and PDP, Kemi Pinheiro, counsel to Mr. Obaseki, Ken Mozia and APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, all did not oppose the application for tender.
Mr. Pinheiro, however, observed that since the documents sought to be tendered as evidence by INEC were same as those before the tribunal as exhibits, “it will make proceeding smoother if we harmonise the documents with a schedule during trial,’’
He argued that the form EC8B document tendered was the same as exhibit PO4(154-163) tendered by the petitioners.
“ If not harmonised for different exhibit numbers, this will create precipice of confusion.
“I am saying that since the petitioners’ document and those sought to be tendered by INEC are from same source, I thought INEC should call oral witness to identify the exhibits before the tribunal,” he said.
Mr. Ikpeazu, however, replied saying, “we have brought documents we have front loaded to support our case. They have done theirs; it is not for the petitioners to determine how we should organise our defence even if these documents are the same.”
“I am therefore asking for an adjournment to Monday while I concede to the suggestion that parties examine the documents sought to be tendered.
“I also intend to interact with electoral officers we may call as to who I wish to tender as witnesses,” he added.
Ruling, the tribunal chairman admitted the documents as exhibit IR(1-10) and ordered INEC to serve the petitioners and the other respondents with its schedule of the other documents to be tendered before the tribunal.
Mr. Badamasi also ruled that parties should use Saturday to examine INEC documents sought to be tendered before adjourning till Monday.