The Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Jos, Plateau Thursday ordered the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Mr Haruna Maitalla, to open and close their defence today.
The PDP and its candidate Mr Jonathan Dabo are challenging the victory of Maitalla at the March 9 re-run for Jos North/Bassa federal constituency of Plateau.
The tribunal, which gave the order after accepting some documents tendered from the Bar by Maitalla as exhibits, said that time was against them and there was need for them to open and close their defence in one day.
When the case came up for hearing Thursday, Maitalla, through his counsel, Mr Garba Pwul, tendered some documents which were accepted and marked as exhibit R1 to R72.
Pwul, prayed the tribunal to consider the documents as deemed read and consent given, a request which triggered serious arguments among parties involved in the matter.
He (Pwul) had claimed that by virtue of paragraph 46 (4) of the first schedule of the Electoral Act 2015, there was need for the petitioners to give their consent on the documents as deemed prayed so as to save time and in the interest of justice.
Mr Leo Ebi, counsel to APC, the 3rd respondent, also supported Pwul’s line of argument and insisted that the petitioners cannot withhold their consent on the documents “tendered through the Bar by the 2nd respondent.”
Also supporting that line of argument, Mr Uoskay Heavens, counsel to INEC, claimed that the petitioners had made reference to the same documents in pages 200 and 201 of their petition and “equally relay on them.”
Responding, Mr Sunday Oyawole, lead counsel to the petitioners, described their arguments as “out of place” as “that provision (para 46(4) of electoral Act 2015) was totally misinterpreted.”
“If the documents are taken as read, the 2nd respondent will as well go home without calling even one witness and will just say he has closed his case, and the documentary evidence wouldn’t have been tested and we will be in for it, “he lamented.
Oyawole reminded the tribunal of its earlier firm decision on such a situation and “therefore we want this tribunal to hold that these documents can’t be taken as read.”
After listening to all the arguments put up by all parties involved in the matter, the tribunal dismissed the application of Maitalla, Pwul and ordered them to prepare their witnesses to defend their case.
The tribunal declared, “the application of the 2nd respondent is hereby refused because it will amount to shutting the petitioners from testing the veracity of those documents tendered.”
“Consequently, the defense is hereby ordered to prepare their witnesses in order to open and close their defense on Friday, (today),” the tribunal declared. (NAN)