Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The Benue State Governorship election petition Tribunal siting in Makurdi, the state capital, has dismissed an application by the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Emmanuel Jime, and his party to amend a defective witness statement on oath of one of its witnesses.
Daily Sun observed that as soon after the witness, Adayi Ekpe, from Ijugban, Ado local government area, entered the witness box and introduced himself, counsel to Governor Samuel Ortom, Sebastine Hon, SAN, raised objections on the competence of the witness to testify.
He argued that the evidence proposed to be given by the said witness was not pleaded on paragraph 441, page 126 of the petition, which the witness’ statement on oath is attached to; adding that what was pleaded on the petition was in regards to polling unit 002, but what was in the witness statement was 002 (1).
On their parts, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Uyi Igunma and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Emeka Okoro aligned themselves with the submission of Governor Ortom’s lawyer.
However, Jime’s lawyer, Sunday Ameh, SAN, told the Tribunal that he wanted to amend paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of the written statement on oath of the witness, adding that he intended to move an application to amend it before Governor Ortom’s counsel raised his objection, sighting certain authorities to back up his submission.
In his counter argument, counsel to INEC, Igunma, submitted that an application for an amendment can only come from the witness, and not the counsel, adding that it must also be done within 21 days from the day election results were declared.
Hon, counsel to Ortom, argued that to amend a defective or erroneous witness statement, the statement has to be re-sworn before a commissioner of oaths after the one seeking to amend the statement has sought and obtained leave of court, stressing that in this case he period for amendment had long elapsed.
Ruling on the matter, Tribunal Chairman Justice Adebola Olusiyi ruled that, in the interest of justice, the witness should be allowed to testify.
Justice Olusiyi, however, dismissed the application to amend the defective witness statement and called on counsel to the respondents to raise their objections in their final addresses.
Five other witnesses called by the APC complained of irregulaties, but none could prove that he was an agent of the APC, as all claimed to have left their means of identification at home, or were not the ones that signed the result sheet.
On why they did not sign the result sheets, Jime’s witnesses said they refused to append their signatures because the poll was marred by irregularities.
The witnesses, who were drawn from Konshisha, Ohimini and Ado local government areas of Benue State, were led in evidence by Sunday Ibrahim Ameh, SAN, counsel to the APC gubernatorial candidate.
Monday’s hearing marked the 12th day since the petitioners have begun calling witnesses in their efforts to void the return of Ortom as Benue State Governor. Jime has two more days to close his case.
The Tribunal adjourned sitting to Tuesday for continuation of hearing.