Osun tribunal adjourns as INEC fails to produce Adeleke’s documents

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BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Uba Group

Osun State Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, on Tuesday, told the Election Petition Tribunal that the state office of the commission was not in custody of the certificates of Ademola Adeleke.

The electoral officer made this declaration at the resumed hearing of the petition filed by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress against the declaration of Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party as Governor-elect.

The REC was billed to appear before the panel in line with a subpoena issued on him to produce form CF001 of Adeleke which contained his credentials used for the 2018 governorship election.

Represented by the Deputy Director, Election and Party Monitoring of INEC, Sheu Mohammed, the REC explained to the tribunal that the documents were in custody of the national headquarters of the body and the National Chairman in line with section 69 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

He added that photocopies of the documents which were in possession of the Osun State INEC office were discarded having served the purpose in which they were sent.

Reacting, counsel to INEC, Paul Ananaba submitted that in the face of the law, the REC has responded to the subpoena and such, the subpoena had been discharged, submitting that it showed that the subpoena on the REC was not competent vis-a-vis the document being demanded.

Ananaba also wondered about the noise on the documents being sought when the petitioners had told the tribunal on oath that they had obtained the CTC of the same document.

He submitted that if the petitioners needed to obtain the documents again, they should apply formally for a different subpoena to be directed to the appropriate authorities of INEC, which in this case, is the national chairman of INEC.

The subpoena, according to Alex Iziyon, counsel to PDP, is in itself, a flagrant abuse of court process because the same people who are dancing round the subpoena already told the court on oath that they have it.

He said, “The petitioners were only hammering on the subpoena for the sole purpose of sensationalism in the media space, so as for them to be seen to be doing something before the Tribunal even when they know they have a bad case on their hands.”

Counsel for Oyetola, Akin Olujinmi (SAN) subsequently argued that the attitude of the REC was mainly not to obey the tribunal order issued on REC to produce the documents.

He said, even if the state office of the commission did not have the requested documents, “REC is representing INEC here and he has a duty to obtain the said documents at their National Headquarters and he has not said that the National Headquarters cannot find that document.

“So, he cannot excuse the duty of obedience to that subpoena by his lame explanation that it was submitted to the national headquarters.

“My Lord, I will apply that your Lordship should direct the REC to approach the national headquarters and obtain the said documents. They had disobeyed the first order and if they liked they should disobey the second order,” Olujinmi argued.

Meanwhile, the APC fielded Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Rasaki Adeosun as a star witness and he was cross examined by Ananaba and Izinyon, and counsel to Adeleke, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), after being led in evidence by Olujimmi.

Justice Tertsea Kume, the Chairman of the tribunal panel, adjourned till Friday, November 25, to deliver ruling on whether the fresh application for amendment of the subpoena was in order or not.

Addressing journalists after the court sitting, counsel for Oyetola, Olujimmi explained why he again decided to step down some witnesses earlier scheduled to testify before the tribunal, saying his team would not be derailed by the antics of the respondents.

“CBN"

“The proceedings today (Tuesday) were very interesting because the subpoena that we served on the Resident Electoral Commissioner, they failed to produce the documents and one thing for us to do was to apply for the committal to prison of the REC but we wanted to give him a second chance by asking the court to direct all over again to produce that documents at the next date of adjournment in this matter,” he said.

On why he dropped some more witnesses, he said, “when you look at the load of witnesses that you have, you don’t want to call witnesses to repeat themselves. If you have a witness who has given cogent evidence on a particular point, you don’t have to belabour the point any longer.”

On his part, INEC counsel, Ananaba downplayed any insinuations of confusion in his client’s brief.

He said, “You know they (petitioners) have called two witnesses. They have called their star witness today and they have concluded with that. They didn’t file any schedule for any other witness because the court will deliver a ruling on the issue of the subpoena on Friday.

They don’t have witnesses to field now, if they had, we would have continued this evening and tomorrow. These are the days of the petitioners and we have gone 110 days out of the 180 days of the petition. They have only called two witnesses for a Governorship election petition. It’s their case, at our own time; we will try and do what is right.”

Counsel to the PDP, Izinyon, said contrary to social media reports, the respondents remained uncluttered in response to the proceedings.

“At the resumed hearing today, we had expected to take four witnesses today but the petitioners said they were withdrawing them.

So, they were struck out and we took one witness that was remaining. We cross-examined him and we have now adjourned to Friday for the ruling relating to the subpoena which was issued to the Resident Electoral Officer to produce some documents. There were arguments for and against and we wait for the ruling on Friday and continuation of the petitioner’s case,” he said.