REACTIONS TRAIL TRIBUNAL'S MISTAKE
About a week after the Katsina State Governorship Election Tribunal overruled itself, in the petition of Aminu Bello Masari, governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) challenging the victory of Governor Ibrahim Shema, the ruling has continued to elicit mixed reactions.
The tribunal, led by Justice C.I. Jumbo-Ofo set aside its Monday, September 5 ruling in favour of Masari the next day in the case against INEC, Governor Ibrahim Shema and four others. The panel held that it set aside the ruling because it was obtained by a mistake.
Reactions have been trailing the development, as supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who queried the jurisdiction of the panel to overrule itself, carpeted the decision as a melodrama, traded words with their CPC counterparts, who insisted that the ruling reflected the position of the law.
At the resumed hearing of the tribunal on Monday September 5, after about two weeks break of the tribunal, Masari notified the tribunal through its counsel, Uye Ogedebe, that he had seven additional witnesses that wanted to testify in respect of his petition. Subsequently, the first witness, one Ibrahim Nuhu was called into the witness box.
In his objection, the lead counsel to the respondents, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) predicated his argument on the grounds that the Electoral Act as amended stipulates that for a witness to testify at Election Petitions Tribunal, such witness must have his statement on oath and must be filed along with the petitioner's petition. He also argued that for the tribunal to allow additional witnesses that were not part of the petition, there must be an application by the counsel, which to his own knowledge had not been done.
Olanipekun stated that the Electoral Act prohibits oral evidence and therefore averred that the subpoena issued to the witnesses by the tribunal was done in error.
The counsel further stated that allowing the witness to testify orally and also to tender Form ECB in his testimony, which was not included in the subpoena issued by the tribunal would contravene the provision of the Electoral Act. However, the tribunal led by Justice C. I. jumbo-Ofo and two other justices - E. Teetito and D. Z. Senchi - ruled on Monday that the witness would be allowed to testify orally because the tribunal had the power to issue the subpoena.
After the ruling, a mild drama ensued, when it was discovered that the name of the original subpoena upon which there was an objection by the defence counsel for it to be set aside, was Ibrahim Nuhu, but the tribunal used another subpoena, belonging to one Aminu Ibrahim Kafur, who was not before the tribunal and did not testify but formed part of the reasons for the tribunal's ruling.