The Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday, disqualified a witness,, Erastus Ofoma, subpoenaed by Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party (LP) from testifying against Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat.
The Chairman of the three-man tribunal committee, Justice Arum Igyen-Ashom ordered Ofoma to step down as he could not testify in the matter.
The tribunal held that the witness’ statement on oath was uploaded out of time and outside the 21 days stipulated under the Electoral Act.
The tribunal ruled on the matter after taking submissions from counsels representing parties in the petition.
Other members of the tribunal were Justice Mikail Adubulahi and Justice l.P. Braimoh.
The sole petitioner, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour , the governorship candidate of the LP, was represented by Dr Olumide Ayeni (SAN).
The first respondent , the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was represented by Mr Eric Obigor, second and third respondents, Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat were represented by Bode Olanipekun (SAN) while the fourth respondent, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was represented by Norrison Quakers (SAN).
Ayeni, who represented the petitioner, had earlier informed the tribunal of his intention to call the subpoenaed witness, Ofoma.
He said the witness had deposed to his statement on oath and served the respondents.
While INEC’s counsel, Obigor confirmed service, Olanipekun and Quakers objected the application.
They said the witness was not one of the witnesses in the list that accompanied the petition.
Olanipekun said there was no indication on the list that any witness was going to be subpoenaed to appear before the tribunal.
He argued that in the case, an objection was taken to evidence being deposed outside 21 days permitted for presentation of petition.
According to him, all the justices of the appellate court are unanimous in their decision that the subpoenaed witness whose statement is not front loaded cannot give evidence.
Quakers who also aligned with Olanipekun, further stated that during the pre-action protocol of the tribunal on June 5, the list of witnesses presented did not suggest that a subpoenaed witness was going to be presented.
He cited the provisions of Electoral Act, first schedule, paragraph four.
He said: “It is a mandatory provision to comply with, that election petition shall be accompanied with list of witnesses to be called and their statement on oath.
“The petitioner cannot ambush respondents and the tribunal.
“At pre-hearing protocol, all applications have been closed.
“I urge the tribunal to discountenance the witness purportedly being subpoenaed in the person of Ofoma,”
According to him, it is a violation of the Electoral Act.
After series of arguments and counter-arguments, the tribunal upheld the pleadings of the respondents.
Earlier, one of the witnesses of the petitioner, Oluwaseun Okanlawon when questioned, based on his statement on oath by Olanipekun, told the tribunal that the event on the election day, March 18, was pre-planned.
Okanlawon told the court that he was testifying as INEC appointed ward coordinator and collation officer.
He said: “INEC appointed me to coordinate the ward though I did not report what happened to them.
“I was appointed as a collation officer and the entire polling unit agents report to me.
“On the eve of the election, I saw people gathered in clusters in different parts of his ward in Surulere, so it was obvious that the event had been pre-planned,”
Olanipekun took the witness up on paragraph eight of his statement on oath where he said voters were intimidated and threatened.
He also asked the witness how he knew the number of registered voters were outnumbered and how many non-accredited voters were allowed to vote in respect of the 52 polling units in his ward.
The witness responded in the negative. (NAN)