From Scholastica Onyeka, Makurdi
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Hyacinth Alia and his Deputy, Sam Ode, have asked the gubernatorial election petition tribunal to give them more time to open their defence in the petition challenging their victory.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its 2023 governorship candidate in Benue State, Rt.M Hon Titus Uba, are claiming that Alia’s deputy, Odeh obtained Form EC-9 (Affidavit in support of Personal Particulars) from INEC, filled, signed and submitted the Form to INEC falsely certifying that the said INEC Form EC-9 was sworn to before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Uba and PDP stated that through their counsel, Samuel Irabor, via a letter dated 27th December, 2022 to the Chief Registrar, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja sought to verify the authenticity of the said INEC Form EC-9.
According to the petitioners, in response to the said letter of 27th December, 2022, the office of the Chief Registrar in a letter dated 9th January, 2023 stated that, “There is no Revenue Receipt Number on the said document, there is no Court Seal on the said document and the name of the Commissioner for Oath did not appear on the said document.
Therefore, the affected document was never sworn to before the Court.”
The petitioners closed their case on July 5th, 2023, and it was adjourned to Friday, July 14th, 2023 (today), for the respondents to open their defence.
When the matter came up, counsel to INEC, Ishiaka Dikko, SAN, told the three-member panel of the tribunal that he was not ready to open his defence.
He apologized to the tribunal for not filing his scheduled list of witnesses and documents he seeks to tender, 24-hours to the date of hearing as required by law.
Dikko also told the court that he was served a certificate of compliance by the petitioners this morning and needs to look at it. He asked the court for an adjournment to tomorrow, Saturday, July 15th, 2023, and said he was ready to bear the consequences of the adjournment sought.
Counsel to Governor Alia, S.I Ameh, SAN, counsel to Sam Odeh, Mamman Mike Osuman, SAN, and that of the APC, Mathew Burkaa, SAN, all aligned themselves with the application for an adjournment.
They respondents collectively said they have agreed to reduce their number of witnesses from five to three witnesses.
Counsel to Uba and the PDP, Douglas Pepe, SAN, however objected to the application for an adjournment.
He said if it was simply for the purpose of serving the petitioners the list of witnesses that they intend to call, a stand down could be taken for the respondents to serve the petitioners so that the matter would go on.
Ruling on the application, the Chairman of the panel led by Justice Ibrahim Mohammed granted the adjournment sought by the respondents and adjourned the matter to Saturday, July 15th, 2023, for INEC, Alia, Odeh and APC to call their witnesses.
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