Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal Friday upheld an application by the All Progressive Congress Governorship candidate Olorogun O’tega Emerhor for adjournment after INEC failed to endorse subpoenaed documents to be tendered before the tribunal.
At the resumed hearing of the ongoing suit, counsel to APC governorship candidate O’tega Emerhor, Chief Thompson Okpoko (SAN) informed the tribunal that he observed that subpoenaed documents did not have the signature of the INEC administrative secretary, Mr Thomas Ongele, but were only rubber-stamped.
Joined in the suit are Governor Ifeanyi Okowa 1st respondent, PDP 2nd respondents while 3rd, 4th and 5th respondents are (INEC, REC, and Returning officer) respectively.
He urged the tribunal to grant an adjournment to enable INEC regularise the signatures on the certified true copies of polling unit by polling unit results of the governorship election conduct in April 11, 2015.
His words, ‘ In the course of the sorting through the documents by our juniors ,I discovered that the INEC official who certified the documents used rubber stamp .He is the administrative secretary ,a lawyer who should know what to do. This can be regularised if the tribunal can make him come to sign the documents in the open court. My application is that the honourable tribunal directs that the man to come and sign them (documents) in court.
But Okowa’s counsel Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN) objected, arguing that adjournments are not granted as a matter of course. Nothing that the APC petition was filed about one month ago, arguing that the tribunal has ruled on the issue of the use of rubber stamp earlier.
He urged the tribunal to invoke Order 46 of the Electoral Act and close the case “if the petitioner is not interested in the petition”.
Aligning with Okowa’s counsel, Mr Timothy Kehinde (SAN) PDP counsel, opposed the granting of the application, arguing that the application is meant ‘to overreach the 2nd respondent and to keep this matter from being determined.”
Kehinde (SAN) sad the documents were certified and given back on February 15th by the 3rd respondent, submitting that: it is an act of bad faith for the petitioner to claim that they discovered some imperfections in the certificate.”
He said the options available to the petitioner was to tender the documents as they are ,close the case or call the other witnesses and allow the matter to go on.
He argued that the petitioner cannot enjoy the tribunal’s discretion for any form of adjournment citing Order 19 rule 5 which prohibits the tribunal from granting more than three adjournments to any party in a case.
INEC’s counsel, Damien Dodo (SAN) also opposed the application arguing that had the petitioner been vigilant the error cannot occur.
His words, ‘We oppose the application for the same reasons articulated by 1st and 2nd respondents. The administrative secretary is not to blame. If there is greater vigilance of the petitioner this error cannot occur”.
The APC counsel argued that ‘my witnesses will not have the opportunity of testifying on what the documents are for. The endorsement of the documents by the INEC official is the only practical way that justice can be served. If a petition is thrown out because a document was not signed that will be turning justice on its head. I assure that nothing will be lost if the matter is adjourned.”
Justice Nasiru Gunmi adjourned till September 4th for continuation of the matter.