The Edo State Governorship Election Tribunal Sitting in Benin city has ruled that a date for the judgment will be communicated to between All Progressives Congress (APC) Candidate Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate pastor Ize-Iyamu.
The PDP candiadate filed a petition before the tribunal asking the tribunal to declare him winner of the elections based on alleged non-accreditation, over voting and non-compliance with the electoral act.
INEC had declared Obaseki winner of the September 28, 2016 governorship election with 319, 483 votes while Ize-Iyamu scored 253, 173 votes.
But counsel to Ize-Iyamu and the PDP, Yusuf Ali (SAN), insisted that they have provided the tribunal with the evidences needed by the tribunal to annul the election of Obaseki, asserting that there was merit in their petition and that Ize-Iyamu should be declared the authentic winner of the election.
Each of the counsels were given 20 minutes to address the court on point of law. Counsel to the INEC, Ikpeazu (SAN), in his addressed noted that the PDP candidate invited ward collating officers as witnesses “and they cannot be super human to be in all the polling units where election held to know what actually happened. They also canvassed the issue of over voting and for over voting to be proved there must be ballot paper counting and certified before the court and as far as this court is concerned there was no counting of any ballot paper here”.
The INEC counsel said the petitioners relied on invented figures not before the court and failed to provide competent evidence before the tribunal when they called witnesses who merely flipped through documents.
Lead counsel to Obaseki, Chief Wole Olanipekun, urged the tribunal to dismiss the Petition on grounds that the identity of the first petitioner and who was sponsored by the PDP were different.
His words, “They could not prove anything. They are holding onto any straw. They don’t know what they want. They didn’t tender anything. What is remaining is carcasses.”
And on the argument made by the petitioner that INEC failed to produce a witness, Ikpeazu asserted that “INEC is not obliged to produce a witness because the burden of proof lies on the petitioner. INEC would have done that if the burden has shifted. We relied on the case of Audu VS Anazodo. It is not for INEC to call evidence it is for the petitioner to proof his case beyond reasonable doubt”.
Fagbemi SAN argued added 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
Counsel to Ize-Iyamu, Ali SAN, urged the tribunal to disregard the submissions made by Counsels to the Respondents, asserting that “ I have ten points why this tribunal should grant our prayers. We have proofed 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 they election was not free and fair during proceedings.
Olanipekun opined that the name of Pastor Osagie Andrew Ize-Iyamu used in the petition was different from Osagie Andrew Izs-Iyamu used for the election.
Counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi, told the tribunal that the petitioners failed to substantiate their claim of electoral irregularities in their pleadings, evidence and address.
“From what the Counsels to the Respondents are saying, they are asking the Tribunal to jettison the issue of the voters register. In Peterside VS Nwike the Supreme Court stated that the voters register is even well recognized by the Electoral Act than the card reader. So we have provided the Tribunal with the evidences needed in this case and we urge it to declared Ize-Iyamu the authentic winner of the election”
“I urged your lordship to hold that the petitioners have failed. There is no leg on which the deposition stand. They did not establish over-voting. If there was deduction in the recount of results declared by INEC, APC will still win by 58, 696 votes.
Lead counsel to the petitioners, Yusuf Alli, said the most logical thing for the tribunal to do was to dismiss the submission of the respondents as there was merit in all the complaints of the petitioners.
The PDP Counsel said “All said my lords, I pray you, sir, that there is merit in all the complaints of the petitioners. And that as a result of the merit of the complaints, the petitioners are entitled to be declared as the duly elected governor of Edo State from the election of September 28, 2016.”
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Badamasi, who commended the counsels for their cooperation throughout the trial, said a date for judgment will be communicated to the parties