The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State’s capital, blasted Counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its Candidate, Oladipupo Adebutu, on Tuesday for what appeared to be an error in the form of presentation before the Tribunal.
The party was chastised for failing to comply with a court instruction requiring documents to be submitted before the court to be tendered from the bar for scrutiny and authentication by the parties involved.
At the resumption of proceedings, Godwin Uche, SAN, Counsel to the PDP and Oladipupo Adebutu, informed the Tribunal of his team’s readiness to formally begin trial immediately, adding that they had completed the list of their scheduled documents before the Panel and had physically brought all of the said documents before it.
As a result, in his objection on the point of law, Counsel to the 1st Respondent (INEC), Remi Olatumura, SAN, cautioned the move to commit such blunder, saying that while his team was ready to move on with the case, it is always imperative for the petitioner to have shown the documents to all the parties before then, insisting that he had not set his eye on the document for authentication.
Olatumura further stated that he owes it to his client to check and certify that the documents genuinely came from INEC and to inspect them suitably.
In the same vein, Counsel to the 2nd Respondent (Governor Dapo Abiodun), Kehinde Ogunwunmiju, SAN, opined that given the volume of the tendered documents and in accordance with procedure rules, which are always sacrosanct, the over 6000 documents should have been presented from the bar earlier for the benefit of the parties to view and confirm their validity.
Ogunwunmiju further informed the Tribunal that, in a comparable matter involving the two in Ebonyi State, the PDP’s Counsel had followed the procedure guidelines, but had decided to operate differently in Ogun State.
He then emphasized that the parties needed more time to check and authenticate the documents, arguing that 24 hours might not be feasible or realistic to scrutinize the voluminous documents, as he also requested a list of witnesses at least 24 hours before the case began, which PDP also failed to comply with.
Kunle Kalejaiye, SAN, who represented the third Respondent (APC), unambiguously asserted, “We have to look at the documents,” corroborating the opinions of the Counsels to the first and second Respondents. The Tribunal is responsible for ensuring that the necessary steps are taken. These are important and crucial documents. They should have invited us to come and look around.
“I accept the first and second respondents’ submissions.” That all undisputed documents be admitted to the bar. All parties engaged in the case must have viewed the papers in order for them to be undisputed. For months, these records have been sought. We should not be railroaded when it comes to document admission. “I beg Your Lordship to allow us reasonable time to inspect,” Kalejaiye said.
He then petitioned the court for two days’ leave to properly scrutinize the materials.
In ruling on the arguments, the Tribunal’s Chairman, Hon. Justice H.N. Kunaza, agreed on the point of law that the PDP had failed to comply with the court’s sacrosanct directive that the tendered documents be presented from the bar for thorough verification and authentication by all parties involved.
He also questioned why Uche refused to follow the procedure regulations in Ogun State but following the same procedures in a similar case in Ebonyi.
“We cannot force them to admit documents they have not seen,” he says. Everyone should read at the documents.”
As a result, the Tribunal’s Chairman permitted the parties two days to thoroughly review the documents as the case was deferred to Thursday, July 6th, for resumption of hearing.