By Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN—EDO State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Benin, has adjourned till March 6, for Governor Godwin Obaseki’s counsel to re-strategise his defence in the petition by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, challenging his (Obaseki) declaration as winner of the September 28, 2016 guber election.
At the hearing of the tribunal, yesterday, Obaseki’s lead counsel, Prince Adetunji Oyiyepo, SAN, after admitting three more witnesses, sought the permission of the tribunal for an adjournment till March 6.
Oyiyepo said the adjournment was to enable the defence team to re-appraise its case before proceeding to calling more witnesses.
Godwin Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu
He said: “My lords, we are asking for an adjournment in this matter. We have so far called 65 witnesses across the wards from the 18 local government areas of the state. We need Friday and Saturday to reappraise our defence strategy. We need more time to re-appraise our case.
“We need to re-strategise to make maximum use of the available time on Monday (March 6). We do not want to dump all manner of witnesses on the tribunal.”
Granting the application, Justice Ahmed Badamasi-led three-man tribunal, also ordered Mr Rotimi Ogunesho, SAN, APC’s counsel, to be ready to open his defence on March 7, when Obaseki would have closed his case on March 6.
Earlier, the three witnesses, who functioned as ward collation agents in the governorship election, in their oral evidence, maintained that the allegation of over-voting by the petitioners, was false.
The witnesses, all from Estako East Local Government Area, are: Mike Awenegemen, Ogun Ologhe and Efedayo Esheshe.
Crossed examined by INEC and APC lawyers, Mr Onyniye Anunonye and Ogunesho, the witnesses confirmed that there was no incidence of over voting because neither the PDP, agent nor any other party agent complained of such on the said day.
But crossed examined by the petitioners’ counsel, Mr Kehinde Adelaja, SAN, Awenegemen, refused to answer the question of what constitutes over voting.
When shown the voter register, exhibit PO260(6) and asked if there were tickings on the boxes, the witnesses responded “Yes, the tickings are on the faces of the voters in the register. But I don’t know whether the tickings are to the right or to the left.”
Esheshe, in his oral evidence, said he was accredited before he voted, but under cross examination, said he would not know if it was the voter register that was used by INEC for his accreditation “since I was not an INEC staff.”