Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has failed to produce any of its 12 witnesses listed before the 2019 Sokoto State Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Sokoto.
At the resumed sitting of the tribunal on Tuesday, the 1st respondent, INEC, was supposed to have presented its witnesses. INEC’s lead counsel, Barrister Alhassan Umar, told the tribunal that, they would not be presenting any witnesses.
He said: “We have reviewed the petition and the witnesses called by the petitioners. We will rely on the evidence we have extracted from the cross-examination of the witnesses of the petitioners. We are within the law and the law allows that. So, we will not be calling any witnesses.”
In his reaction, lead counsel for the petitioners, Dr Alex Izinyon, SAN, said: “They claimed to have 12 witnesses, but, they have failed to produce them. We are ever ready.”
The lead counsel for the 2nd respondent, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Barrister Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, said: “We were actually taken by surprise for the 1st respondent to say they are not calling any witnesses today.
“This is mainly because we did not factor that into our planning. This is also bearing in mind that, they were given ten days within which to defend themselves.
“In the circumstance, in order to afford us the opportunity to gather our witnesses and make relevant applications for necessary subpoenas, we will like to commence our defence on the 1st August 2019.”
The lead counsel for the 3rd respondent, Aare Akinmuyiwa Akinboro, aligned himself with the submission of the 2nd respondent.
He added “we are here today hoping that we will spend the next two to three days getting through the witnesses of the 1st respondent.
“The position of the 1st respondent has totally altered whatever arrangements we have made. There is now a change in the game plan. The submission of the 1st respondent is amenable.”
The chairman of the tribunal, Justice Abdullahi Bawale, however, refused the application for an adjournment to 1st August 2019, by the lead counsel of the 2nd respondent, Barrister Ukala.
The chairman averred: “When we adjourned to today, it is not only for the 1st respondent to commence its defence, but, for the 2nd and 3rd respondents.
“So, we are adjourning to Saturday, July 27, 2019. We have to do more to dispense with this case, hopefully in the next two months.”
Justice Abdullahi also warned that the court would not further grant any unnecessary adjournments, saying: “We have conceded too much, so far.”
The chairman later adjourned the case to Tuesday, July 30, 2019, for continuous defence by both the 2nd and 3rd respondents.
Reacting, Izinyon said: “I will heed to the 30th August 2019, but, there should not be any stop. The 3rd respondent should take over the baton immediately the 2nd respondent finishes.”
Addressing newsmen shortly after today’s sitting, Izinyon, represented, by Dr Hassan Liman SAN, said: “It is their case and they have decided not to call any witnesses.
” As the petitioners, we have said that INEC has made mistakes by declaring Tambuwal as the winner of the polls, which were marred by a lot of malpractices.
“So, we want the results of the elections quashed and for Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto to be so declared as the winner of the elections.”
The gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, and the party had dragged the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the PDP and INEC, to the tribunal, challenging the declaration of Tambuwal as the winner of the 2019 general and supplementary elections by the commission.