An application by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in last September’s governorship election in Edo state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, to be granted an extension of time to call more witnesses at the election tribunal was rejected on Friday.
The petitioners are only entitled 14 days to present evidence and call witnesses to prove their case and that elapsed by 1pm on Friday.
According to the chairman of the three-member panel, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, the tribunal lacks the powers to give such an extension and the application lacked merit. Consequently, the PDP and Ize-Iyamu had to close their case.
INEC had declared Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the Edo governorship election after he polled 319,483 votes to defeat Ize-Iyamu, his closest rival, who scored a total of over 250,000 votes. However the PDP say the election was marked by irregularities and fraud. It wants the tribunal to declare Ize-Iyamu as winner.
They had 14 days to prove their cases and stated in their pleadings that they would call more than 1,000 witnesses. The petitioners also requested for the recounting in court of used ballot papers in the election. They were, however, able to call only 91 witnesses before the expiration of the allotted time.
Mr Ahmed Salman, INEC administrative officer, on subpoena, on Tuesday, had produced several bags in court containing used ballot papers for Egor, Akoko-Edo, Etsako-East and Estako-West, respectively.
Counting of the papers in all the four local government areas was still on when Mr Ken Mozia (SAN), counsel for Obaseki, at 1 pm, drew the attention of the tribunal to the fact that 14 days allotted for the petitioners to prove their case had expired.
Following the observation, Mr Yusuf Ali (SAN), counsel to the petitioners, prayed the tribunal to allow for the continuation of counting since the process commenced within the 14- day period.
However, the respondents’ counsel objected to the request.
The tribunal, after arguments from the petitioners and respondents’ counsel, ruled against the application for continuation of counting, since it had gone beyond the prescribed 14-day period.
Ali thereafter orally applied to the tribunal that the result of the counting within time should be made known to the tribunal, which the respondents also objected to.
But the tribunal chairman upheld Ali’s prayer and ruled that the tribunal’s registrar should furnish it with the outcome of the counting on or before Monday.
Badamasi also ruled that copies of the information should be served on both the petitioners and respondents, and adjourned till Tuesday for INEC to open its defence.