The Akwa state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, Wednesday overruled the objection of the petitions filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Nsima Ekere, seeking to stop subpoenaed witnesses to the first respondent Gov Udom Emmanuel from testifying at the tribunal.
J.S. Okutepa, the lead counsel to the APC and Chief Ekere and APC, objected to the subpoenaed witness Mr Patrick Albert and immediate past chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Akwa Ibom state council and Emmanuel Ogbole, chairman of Arewa Peoples Forum from testify before the tribunal.
He hinged his objection on the argument that both subpoenaed witnesses are not government officials and as such ought not to have been subpoenaed as witnesses.
Subsequently, Okutepa argued that the 1st respondent was merely looking for a window to bring in additional witnesses whose statements were not submitted along with the first Respondent’s reply. Further, he faulted the statement of the witness which he said bothered on the conduct of elections at the polling units.
However, that position was dismissed by Onyechi Ikpeazu counsel to Governor Emmanuel, who urged the tribunal to overrule the objection and referred the tribunal to the list of witnesses listed and told the court that the petitioners who were entitled to seek the particulars of the witnesses, never did so.
He further argued that there was no law, and indeed the Petitioners have not cited any, that stated that only government officials could be subpoenaed to give evidence in such election matter.
He made reference to Section 171 of the Evidence Act, and argued that the two witnesses are compellable witnesses. Also, Ikpeazu maintained that under Section 175(1), of the Evidence Act, every person who is not under the control of the 1st respondent can be subpoenaed to testify, except such persons were of unsound mind.
Citing LASUN V. AWOYEMI(2009), LPELR11912 CA, and even in the recent proceedings in the tribunal, Ikpeazu recalled that a DPO from Essien Udim local government area subpoenaed at, was allowed to testify before the tribunal even without any written statement.
Further supporting the argument, Tayo Oyetibo who appeared for the second respondents (PDP) said, while adopting the arguments of Ikpeazu, that contrary to the position evidence of the witness at this stage cannot be considered by the tribunal.
He also cited more relevant sections of the law, to state that a subpoena can only be set aside upon motion as stated in the Odu v. Duke, saying that it would amount to a breach of fair hearing not to allow a witness on a subpoena to give evidence.
In his ruling the tribunal chairman, Justice Yakubu said the tribunal refused Amadu Attai’s witness status largely because he had sworn an oath to being the deputy governorship candidate of the APC butlater also told the tribunal he is a lecturer in the University of Uyo.
Therefore, he said the subpoenas are served on people who are not under the control of parties in a case, as such, it has not been proven before to the tribunal by the petitioners that the witnesses are under the control of the Chief Ekere.