Edo poll: Tribunal threatens to charge lawyers with contempt

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By Gabriel Enogholase

BENIN—AS the Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal resumed sitting yesterday, chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, has threatened lawyers with contempt charges over unprofessional conduct during the cross examination of a witness to the respondents.

Counsel for the petitioners,  Mr Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, had, during the cross examination of Edosa Ajayi, a witness to the second respond, Mr Godwin Obaseki,  drawn the attention of the tribunal to an alleged unprofessional conduct by lawyers for the respondent’s team, who were whispering answers to Ajayi.

He said,: “My lords, perhaps villagers, with all sense of responsibility, who do not know the etiquette of the court, whisper and make gesticulations can be forgiven. But it is worrisome and a cause for concern when members of the Bar are caught engaging in this type of unprofessional conduct, it doesn’t speak well for us as lawyers.”

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The tribunal chairman responded thus: “It is, indeed, very wrong for members of the Bar to be doing this. What impression are they giving the public knowing that newsmen are here?

“This is the last time this kind of unprofessional conduct will happen in this tribunal. There should be no echoing or whispering of answers in any form. Even if it is from a counsel or lawyer in the case, justice will be done as the offender will be charged with contempt,” the tribunal chairman warned.

Before the interruption, the witness, led in evidence by Obaseki’s counsel, Mr Abiodun Awonikoko, SAN, claimed that, as All Progressives Congress, APC, agent in the September 28, 2016, governorship election, he and other agents had signed the polling unit result sheet form EC8A.

Confronted with exhibit PO 169(4), being the certified true copy, CTC, of the said polling unit result, form EC8A, and asked if he could see any signature, the witness became hesitant and followed with resounding echoes and whisperings from the respondents’ counsel bench.

Ajayi later responded saying, “I agree that the CTC is a copy of the original result with INEC. And  I agree that the CTC  is the same as the pink copy given to agents,” but when asked if there was any signature on the copy, he replied “I can’t see any signature.”

One of the witnesses, Ederaro Osahon, an applicant, who functioned as APC’s agent in Oredo, in his oral evidence, claimed that accreditation and voting process was done simultaneously in his polling unit.

Under cross examination by Orbih, he became evasive. Asked if the figure of the actual accreditation in his unit could only be gotten when ticking to the left in the voter register were counted and added up, he responded “I do not know. I guess that is for INEC to answer.”

When Orbih asked  if 221 and 242 would add up to give 463, he responded “I don’t know. I am not that good in calculation.”

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