To the consternation of a packed court audience, the third respondent (PDP) abruptly ended its case today without calling further witnesses to show that it won the disputed Presidential/National Assembly election of 28th of March, 2015, in Rivers South-East Senatorial District. Senator Magnus Abe of the APC is challenging INEC’s declaration of Olaka Nwogu of the PDP as winner of the election in this petition. Instead of counsel to the third respondent to call further witnesses as was expected, he surprisingly opted to tender two document which he prayed the tribunal to admit, the most critical of which was rejected.
The first document which was subpoenaed by the tribunal through the third respondent was a certified true copy of a Comprehensive Report of the 2015 General election in Rivers State dated 7th of May, 2015, and signed by Mrs Gesila Khan, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Rivers State.
The second document which the third respondent sought to tender was the list of APC Party Agents for the Presidential/National Assembly election of the 28th of March, 2015. Counsel to the third respondent urged the tribunal to admit all the documents into evidence on the ground that they were relevant to the proceedings, a position which counsels to the first and second respondents adopted.
Counsel to the petitioner however objected to the two documents on the ground that they were neither front-loaded, listed or pleaded by the third respondent, and that the documents therefore could not be tendered across the bar at this closing stage of the proceedings.
On the second document which was a list of APC party agents from the seven LGAs of Rivers south-East Senatorial District ( Khana, Gokana, Eleme, Tai, Oyigbo, Andoni, Opobo/Nkoro), counsel to the petitioner drew the attention of the tribunal to the fact that the documents sought to be tendered had been rejected and marked as such in an earlier ruling delivered by the tribunal in the same matter on the 30th of September, 2015. He further argued that it would amount to the tribunal sitting as an appellate court against its previous ruling if the APC party agent list was not rejected and thrown into the trash can which the referenced ruling of the tribunal consigned it to.
But counsel to the third respondent countered that argument in his response. He stated that respecting the first document, it was front-loaded, listed and pleaded. He cited page 67 paragraph 89 of the third respondent’s reply to the petitioner’s petition as containing listing the document in issue. He also quoted the case of Agbaru vs Uduaghan as basis upon which the document should be admitted. On the second document, he argued that even though it had been rejected in an earlier ruling by the tribunal, if there were new grounds and facts upon which to admit the document which where unknown to the tribunal in its first ruling, it can do justice by departing from its previous ruling. He finally prayed the court to discountenance the argument of the petitioner and admit the document.
Counsel to the petitioner replied by arguing that the first document which the third respondent sought to tender was radically different from that which was listed at page 67 paragraph 89 of the third respondent’s reply to the petitioner’s petition. On the second document, he stated that the stated that only an appeal can lie on it, and that the tribunal cannot sit as an appeal court against its previous ruling. He finally urged their Lordships to reject the two documents and consign them to the trash can where they truly belong.
In its ruling, the tribunal admitted the first document, that is the Comprehensive Report of the 2015 General Election in Rivers State signed by Gesila Khan on the ground that the document was listed in the third respondent’s reply to the petition. The court also stated in its ruling that being a subpoenaed document, there was no ground to reject.
It however rejected the list of APC party agents which PDP( the third respondent) sought to tender on the ground that the document has already been rejected in an earlier ruling of the tribunal, stressing that there is no law that compels the tribunal not to stand by its ruling. The document was therefore marked rejected.
The tribunal adjourned the sitting to the 9th of October for the adoption of addresses by counsels to the petitioner and the respondents.
Olaka Worgu’s failure to present witnesses today has further harmed his chances in the tribunal as the first, second and third respondents have failed to present strong evidence that election properly so-called actually took place on the 28th of March, 2015.
Senator Magnus Abe of the APC is praying the tribunal to nullify the election and order for a rerun on the ground that election properly so-called did not take place in Rivers South-East Senatorial District on the 28th of March, 2015, because of massive irregularities, untrammeled violence, hijacking and non delivery of electoral materials and substantial non compliance with the electoral Act.
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