..Parties To Adopt Final Written Addresses Monday
Kaduna State Governor, Uba Sani, has said the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the course of challenging his victory, unwittingly helped in proving he won the March 18 governorship election.
He asserted this in his final address to the Kaduna Governorship Tribunal, prepared by his legal team led by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN.
The opposition party had challenged the declaration of Sani as the winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with its candidate, Mohammed Ashiru Isa, seeking a reversal of the pronouncement.
In the sole pending petition against Uba’s victory, 24 witnesses were called by the petitioners. Claims and documents were also adduced by them.
On Monday September 4, parties in the petition will be adopting their final written addresses even as a confident Governor Sani decided to head into the final lap without his listed witnesses, earlier scheduled to defend his mandate.
According to the governor, the petitioners had helped in proving he won the poll fair and square, pointing in particular to the admission of a star witness for the petitioner, Bonett Gwazah, a senior system analyst (SSA) in the VR/ICT Department of INEC in Kaduna State.
The governor through his counsel said, “The petitioners called a total of 24 witnesses, most of whose statements on oath were filed pursuant to subpoenas issued during the hearing of the petition.
“After the close of the petitioners case, the 2nd Respondent (the governor) did not see any need to call witnesses having elicited sufficient evidence under cross-examination to discredit the petitioners who failed to discharge the burden of proof placed on them by the law, and the evidence so elicited supports the defence pleaded by the 2nd Respondent”.
While inviting the Tribunal to take judicial notice of how the petitioners’ witnesses crumbled under cross examination, Governor Sani’s legal team, pointed out how fatal Gwazah’s capitulation under cross examination is, to the case of PDP and Isa who requested him as their star witness.
Chief Ojo, on behalf of his client, pointed out that, “This witness (Gwazah) tendered several INEC Forms, Voters’ Registers, BVAS Reporte, PVCs collected in 9 Local Government Areas.
“Under cross-examination, this witness admitted not having participated in the election in any form on the election day. More fundamentally, PW1 (Gwazah) admitted and indeed gave evidence against interest when he testified.”
It was recorded in the final address of the governor that the witness was asked, “Forms EC8D and E which you brought before this tribunal are a true reflection of the election held on the 18th March, 2023 into the seat of Governor of Kaduna State”?
He was quoted as answering, “Yes, they are”. Arising from the exchange during the cross-examination, the former AGF now submitted that “this evidence is conclusive proof that the election was substantially in compliance with the extant law.”
Two Supreme Court precedents were also cited to prove the fatality and finality of a witness turning on his interest.
“In ABBA v. ABBA AJI & ORS, first cited, the apex court held that, “those pieces of evidence are crucial because they were adduced by the witnesses called by the appellant himself which can be regarded as admission against interest and which the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal relied on in finding against the appellant”.
“In the second precedent of Odi v. Iyala (2004), Justice Niki Tobi, then of the Supreme Court, stated thus; “I cannot see better evidence against a party than one from a witness called by him who gave evidence contrary to the case of that party. This is because the party is calling the witness to testify in favour of his case as pleaded in his pleading. If the party knows this witness will not give evidence in his favour, he will never call him”.
Standing on the precedents, Chief Ojo argued that “the concomitant effect therefore is that PW1’s testimony was a crucial admission against the interest of the petitioners which is conclusive proof that the summary of the results as declared by the 1st Respondent (INEC) as embodied in Forms EC8D and E are true reflection of the elections held in Kaduna on the 18th day of March, 2023”.
The governor’s legal team also explained how other witnesses crumbled under cross-examination, especially the voter-witnesses, who all confessed to not knowing the number of registered voters in their polling units, the number of accredited voters in their polling units on election day and the total number of votes cast in their units, despite being in the witness box, to prove over-voting.
Despite the elaborate explanation to dismantle PDP’s case, the governor’s team is still reminding the Tribunal about its earlier objection to the competence of the petition.
In multiple preliminary objections, Governor Sani had contested the validity of the petition on the grounds of late filing, premature filing of pre-hearing notice among other procedural errors, inviting the tribunal to obey the most recent precedent from the Court of Appeal in a similar case in Enugu and dismiss Isa’s petition.
The tribunal led by Justice Victor Oviawie, showed subtle reluctance to terminate the hearing midway, promising on each occasion, to rule on the dismissal requests at a later date.
The deferred rulings are now likely to be taken with the final judgement.
The electoral commission, the first respondent in the petition, also took issue with another procedural error from the petitioners on admissibility of documents.
Asking the tribunal to expunge, it said, “the petitioners clearly failed to comply with the provision of Paragraph 5(b) of Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Direction, 2023 which provides for ten (10) pages written submission in respect of objection to admissibility of documents being an interlocutory issue.
“The petitioners’ written address exceeded the 10 pages mandatory requirement and it is therefore incompetent which deserves to be struck out. Your Lordships are accordingly urged to strike out same.”
In its reply to Governor Sani’s final address, the petitioners, in a 40-page address to the tribunal insisted they had proved their case, while asking for a favourable ruling.
According to them, “in the instant petition, rather than scrutinize all the documents presented in evidence by the petitioners, the 2nd respondent (Governor Sani) opted to dissipate energy on outdated position of law.
“We submit that once the evidence adduced by the petitioners is cogent and compelling, the courts will grant the reliefs sought, especially where the evidence of the petitioners is unchallenged.
“The 2nd respondent completely abandoned its pleadings in this case.”