INEC opens defence in Edo governorship election petition

The electoral commission, INEC, on Friday opened its defence in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate in the September 28, 2016 governorship election in Edo, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, before the Justice Ahmed Badamasi three-member tribunal in Benin.

The PDP and its candidate are challenging the declaration by INEC of Godwin Obaseki of the APC as winner of the election.

The petitioners listed INEC, Obaseki and the APC as first, second and third respondents respectively.

The petitioners on February 10 closed their case after calling 91 witnesses and tendering several documentary pieces of evidence before the tribunal.

At the resumed hearing on Friday, the INEC counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, informed the tribunal that his client was ready to open its case although witnesses may not be called.

“We have led copious evidence through cross examination of the petitioners’ witnesses.

“We propose to tender few documents when we need to confront them and enhance evidence already led and at the end of which, if need be, we will call witnesses,” he said.

Mr. Ikpeazu thereafter sought the tribunal’s permission to tender as evidence 10 copies of form EC8B, being ward collation result for wards in Uhunmwonde Local Government Area of the state .

The counsel to the petitioners, Ize-Iyamu and PDP, Kemi Pinheiro, counsel to Mr. Obaseki, Ken Mozia and APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, all did not oppose the application for tender.

Mr. Pinheiro, however, observed that since the documents sought to be tendered as evidence by INEC were same as those before the tribunal as exhibits, “it will make proceeding smoother if we harmonise the documents with a schedule during trial,’’

He argued that the form EC8B document tendered was the same as exhibit PO4(154-163) tendered by the petitioners.

“ If not harmonised for different exhibit numbers, this will create precipice of confusion.

“I am saying that since the petitioners’ document and those sought to be tendered by INEC are from same source, I thought INEC should call oral witness to identify the exhibits before the tribunal,” he said.

Mr. Ikpeazu, however, replied saying, “we have brought documents we have front loaded to support our case. They have done theirs; it is not for the petitioners to determine how we should organise our defence even if these documents are the same.”

“I am therefore asking for an adjournment to Monday while I concede to the suggestion that parties examine the documents sought to be tendered.

“I also intend to interact with electoral officers we may call as to who I wish to tender as witnesses,” he added.

Ruling, the tribunal chairman admitted the documents as exhibit IR(1-10) and ordered INEC to serve the petitioners and the other respondents with its schedule of the other documents to be tendered before the tribunal.

Mr. Badamasi also ruled that parties should use Saturday to examine INEC documents sought to be tendered before adjourning till Monday.

 

Source: NAN

Edo Election Tribunal: Inconsistencies mar PDP witnesses’ testimonies.

There was mild drama at the Edo State Election Tribunal sitting at the premises of Edo State High court in Benin City on Tuesday, as two People’s Democratic Party (PDP) witnesses were discovered to have given false information under oath.

This was as inconsistencies manifested in the reports of other witnesses during cross-examination by Counsels to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), All Progressives Congress (APC) and Governor Godwin Obaseki.

One of the witnesses, Ekpomriri Henry from Okpekpe in Etsakor East, claimed that the total number of votes in Unit 6 did not tally with the number of accreditations in the same unit. However, while he only indicated that he was the PDP collation agent for Unit 2, he kept proffering information for Unit 10.

Upon further cross-examination by the respondents, he revealed he was also the collation agent for Unit 10 but chose to withhold that information ‘for security reasons’.

In addition, he refused to sign the collation result in his own ward because he claimed he was not satisfied with the way the election was conducted. This was even as he testified to having visited three other units where the collation agents all signed the collation result sheets.

Also citing security reasons as his excuse for providing false information was Imran Ighie Shuaib from Okugbe in Okpella, whose address and signature on the witness statement were markedly different from those he tendered in court.

When the respondent Counsels put these inconsistencies to him, he replied saying, “I put it back to you…” before he was interrupted.

Other witnesses put forward by the PDP petitioning team also alleged inconsistencies in the accreditation and voting numbers with some adding multiple voting and over voting to their grievances with the election.

Edo PDP candidate, Ize-Iyamu is still under investigation – EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is still under investigation for his alleged role in the disbursement of N23bn campaign funds, which emanated from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The N23bn was alleged to have been part of stolen crude oil funds and kickbacks from contractors.

Part of the money was allegedly used in bribing officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission during the 2015 general elections.

Ize-Iyamu had told journalists that as the campaign director for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation in Edo State during the 2015 presidential election, he handled N700m for the party.

He was quizzed by the EFCC in May 2016, whn he was asked to return some money to the commission but was not detained, thereby fuelling speculations that he had been cleared by the anti-graft agency.

The EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, however, said on Monday that the PDP candidate was still under investigation.

“I can confirm to you that he (Ize-Iyamu) is still under investigation,” Wilson said.

Ize-Iyamu had told reporters that he indeed handled N700m for the PDP during the last presidential election but added that the party still owed him some money.

He had said, “I told them (EFCC) who got what: that we needed money for transportation; mobilisation of our people; some of them that had to leave Benin to their polling units in the rural areas, and that the state chairman of the party worked out a realistic budget.

“And that by the time we looked at what they brought and what we had in mind, it became clear that the N700m would not be enough. Our leader volunteered to make up the difference, which he brought from his house.”

The EFCC has grilled about 16 former governors and ministers over the alleged N23bn Diezani scam.

Some of them included the immediate past Governor of Kebbi State, Saidu Dakin Garin; former Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State; former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State; former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State; former Governor James Ngilari of Adamawa State; a former Governor of Zamfara State, Mamuda Shinkafi; a former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke; and a former Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda.

During the election, each state was said to have received at least N450m from the fund, which was handled by ministers or governors who were members of the PDP.

Some states, however, received more than N450m.