The Independent Nationa Electoral Commission, INEC, on Wednesday September 30, 2015, closed its defense against the petition filed by the All Progressive Congress, APC and its governorship candidate, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, challenging the declaration of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as the winner of the April 11, 2015 governorship election in Delta State.
This act was the culmination of a dramatic day at the Delta State elections petitions tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, which was highlighted by the ruling of the three-man election petitions panel headed by Justice Nasiru Gumi to reject the objection raised by Chief Thomson Okpoko, lead counsel to the petitioners over the admission of two vital documents tendered by the INEC Counsel of the day O. Anumonye Esquire to theb tribunal,
Tribunal followers will recall that the Justice Nasiru Gumi led three-man election petitions panel had expressed strong displeasure over the failure of INEC and its absent lead counsel Damien Dodo, SAN to present a vital document and call a witness as the promised prelude to concluding its case before the break for the Sallah holidays, even as a visibly stern Justice Nasiru Gunmi had, while granting the application for adjournment sought by INEC, stressed the obvious time constraint and the constitutional provision stipulating that the Tribunal must conclude all proceedings latest October 28, 2015.
INEC counsel for the day, O. Anumonye in opening the defense for the electoral body which is the third respondent had thus arrived at the resumed hearing on September 30, armed with the two documents that had compelled the previous adjournment he had been granted and quickly proceeded, after the introduction of appearances by the various counsels, to tender the two documents from the bar.
The documents in question were: Smart card reader data upload accreditation status as at Thursday, April 16, 2015 and Polling units without accreditation figures as at April 16, 2015. Both documents were also duly accompanied with the certificates of certification for the documents, which Anumonye had stated, was in compliance with section 84 of the Evidence Act.
However, Chief Thomson Okpoko, SAN, lead counsel to the petitioners, had immediately objected to the tendering of the documents, on the grounds that the documents were inadmissible having been previously tendered in the related petition to his own and rejected by the tribunal, which had then marked them R1 and R2.
Chief Okpoko argued that a document once tendered and rejected cannot again be retendered in that same proceeding and citing the case of Wassah vs Kada, 2014, urged the tribunal to reject the documents and continued to insist that it was the same document earlier rejected even after the tribunal had pointedly asked him to take a closer look at the documents and affirm if he was indeed suer that there were no visible differences between the one his objection was based on and this particular set of documents.
Replying to Chief Okpoko’s submissions, Anumonye told the tribunal that the APC and Emerhor’s counsel’s objection is misconceived and argued that in dealing with a document tendered and marked rejected, the difference must always be drawn between a document that is inherently inadmissible thus cannot be re-tendered and a document which is admissible upon a condition precedent being met.
Anumonye, while proceeding to dismiss Wassah vs Kada as inapplicably in this contest on the grounds that the document in that particular matter was inherently inadmissible and so could not be retendered, told the tribunal that the relevant decision is that of the Supreme Court in Talib v. GTB 2011, where the Supreme Court held that the document, a police report that vhad not been certified, should be re-tendered and received in evidence having fulfilled the conditions necessary for it to be admissible.
Anumonye equally cited the case of Aribisala v. Ogunyemi, 2001 to buttress his arguement and concluded by telling the tribunal that the documents he had tendered were not the same as the one Chief Okpoko ws referring to, as those particular documents had been tendered by the First respondent, Chief Okowa’s counsel at that time, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, but this set were INEC documents and the petitioners were not justified to tell INEC not to tender its own documents, which had even now been duly certified, in its own case.
K.D Mozia, SAN, lead Counsel of the day to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the first respondent told the tribunal that he had no objection to the tendering of the documents as they were duly certified. The same position was also taken by Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju Esquire, for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is also the second respondent.
The three-man panel in their consolidated ruling, after thoroughly examining the documents, noted that although their were noticeable similiraties between the documents refered to by Chief Okpoko which attempt to tender had proved abortive and this present set of documents, they could however not find any mark on them to indicate that they had been rejected as held by Chief Okpoko, and while holding that the third to fifth respondents were at liberty to do their case in the way best suited to them, ruled that documents were admissible and comply with section 84 of the Evidence Act.
The tribunal accordingly dismissed Okpoko’s objection and admitted the documents in evidence and marked them as Exhibits R32 and R32A.
With this major victory achieved, O. Anumonye then proceeded to inform the tribunal that having reviewed the documentary and witness evidence given so far they have seen that the 1st and 2nd respondents have elicited evidence under cross examination on which he, counsel to the third to fifth respondent wishes to rest their case and as a result he was not going to call any further witnesses.
“We will not be calling any witness my lords. We rest our case on the evidence we have elicited under cross examination,” he submitted.
Accordingly, the three-man Tribunal headed by Chairman, Justice Nasiru Gunmi announced the closure of the case by the third, fourth and fifth respondents, namely, INEC, the Resident Electoral commissioner, Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak and the Chief returning officer for Delta State Governorship elections, Prof, Bio Nyanayo, and after setting down an agreeable schedule for the submission and response of addresses by the contending parties, subsequently adjourned till October 13, 2015 for the presentation and asdoption of final addresses by the petitioners and respondents.