Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi on Thursday, struck out the statement on oath of the star witness of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Emmanuel Jime and the APC, Joe Abaagu, on the grounds that it was not validly sworn to or commissioned.
It was found during the continuation of cross-examination of the witness that the copy of Abaagu’s statement on oath meant for the Chairman of the Tribunal was neither commissioned nor endorsed and therefore, invalid.
Counsel to Governor Samuel Ortom, Sebastine Hon, and that of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Oba Maduabuchi, (SAN) argued that the witness’ statement on oath on the main petition, deposed to by Abaagu covering polling units in 11 local government areas was not valid in law as it was not commissioned, sworn to before a Commissioner of Oath.
Hon who sighted the case of Buhari vs INEC 2008, submitted that the defect in witness’ statement was not curable, and should, therefore, be struck out even as counsel to PDP also aligned himself with the position of Ortom’s counsel.
Maduabuchi added that if the star witness had appeared before the secretary to of tribunal, he would have seen that his witness statement on oath was not commissioned.
Maduabuchi, while arguing further that nothing can be added to what did not exist, insisted that one can only add to what exists, for it is factual and legally non-existent. Oba submitted that after the 21-day period provided by law for filling of election petition, one cannot make a witness statement.
However, in his counter-argument, counsel to Jime, O. O. Oluwolafe submitted that the second oath taken by Abaagu had cured any defect in the first one, adding that in the case of Buhari vs INEC, the application was raised before the witness entered the witness box to testify.
Ruling on the matter, the tribunal chairman, Justice Olusiyi, submitted that a witness statement on oath must be sworn to before a Commissioner for Oaths which in this case is the secretary to the tribunal.
He added that the purported witness statement on oath of PW15 was invalid, incompetent, discountenance and struck out, adding that a witness cannot adopt what does not exist in the eye of the law.
The tribunal adjourned till Friday, 19th July 2019, to determine whether to strike out Joe Abaagu’s (PW15’s) additional witness statement on oath made in respect to the witness statement on oath of Abaagu which was struck out.