Plateau Governorship Petition: Hearing Commences At Tribunal
The Governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Jos has commenced hearing in the Petition filled by the All Progress Congress and its candidate challenging the election of Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP as Governor of Plateau state.
Security was tight at the state high court, venue of the Governorship election petition tribunal as the Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang and his Deputy, Josephine Piyo as well as the running mate of the APC candidate, Pam Botmang attended the tribunal sitting.
At the commencement of hearing on Monday, Counsel to the APC, Professor Kayode Olatoke, SAN, had sought the leave of the tribunal to tender some documents before the tribunal which was objected by respondents.
Professor Olatoke drew the attention of the tribunal to the subpoena on INEC and the Commissioner of Police, Plateau state command to bring the BVAS machines, certified true copies of the Voters register in respect of some Local government areas, permanent voter cards collected for the 18th March 2023 governorship election in the state and certified true copies of the Form EC8A.
Pius Akubo, SAN, Counsel to Governor Mutfwang, however wanted to know on which schedule were the documents listed in the scheduled order of the pre-hearing report of the tribunal as there were no such things on the listed files.
Mr Akubo, SAN, said it is required that the petitioner states categorically where the documents are stated in the schedule order before calling on INEC officials to present them before the tribunal.
For his Part, Emeka Etiaba, SAN, Counsel to PDP, noted that the way and manner the petitioner’s counsel went about the presentation of the Subpoenaed documents was unacceptable.
After considering the arguments from both sides, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the petitioner to submit the documents.
A Senior System Analyst from the INEC Headquarters Abuja, Salisu Aliyu told the tribunal that it was not possible to bring to the tribunal all the BVAS machines used during the March 18th election as they are over 4,000.
Mr. Aliyu said he was asked to make available the certified true copies of accreditation data extracted from the INEC Result Viewing Portal and the BVAS machines used in the state during the March 18th governorship election.
Another official from INEC Headquarters, Festus Aisin told the tribunal that he brought along with him the voter register used for the governorship election in selected polling units in the state and added that in view of the bulky nature of the documents, he brought them in soft copy and only two of the polling units register, are in hard copy.
Counsel to the APC insisted that what was requested for was not E-copies of the documents and faulted the non-compliance of INEC to to produce the certified true copies of the subpoenaed documents in their custody.
Counsels to the second and third respondents objected however the tribunal ruled in favour of the petitioner and directed INEC to produce the documents within one week.
The tribunal also directed the Commissioner f Police through the command's legal officer, Okon Umoren to produce on July 3rd the Certified true copies of the election results for the local governments areas as requested by the petitioner.
Pius Akubo, SAN, Lead counsel to Governor Caleb Mutfwag said the will reserve their objection to the admissibility of some of the documents by the tribunal in in their final address
Akubo, SAN, said "we were concerned that we didn't see the subpoena originally. We needed to know who was it actually addressed to for what purpose? Because in law, we know that there are two kinds of subpoena, the one that merely asks someone to produce documents, in which case you don't have to administer oath to him”.
“He doesn't have to be cross examined”, he said
He explained that the other aspect of subpoena is the one that goes beyond production of documents and recons with the need for a supreme witness to also give evidence in such a case that witness would have to be administered an oath.
The Counsel to Governor Mutwang said they wanted to be doubly sure what kind of subpoena was issued and also needed to "establish what kind of documents were they required to produce?"
For His part, Emeka Etiaba who represents the Peoples Democratic Party, said he objected to the documents because the documents were not admissible in law.
According to him, "we realized that the documents they were tendering were not listed in their petition and were not contained schedule of documents that had been adopted by the court".
He went on to further state that the hearing on Monday ran into a hitch "because the documents that were to be tendered by the petitioners, most of them it became cumbersome for the court to number the mass exhibit".
Mr. Etiaba, SAN, said the court, in its wisdom, again granted the "petitioner and indeed all the parties the indulgence to have the parties and resolve the documents and then produce tables that will make it easier for the marking of the exhibit".
Professor Olatoke while addressing Journalists said despite the objections from the respondents the court ruled in their favour to tender the subpoena and announced that they will continue to tender further documents when the tribunal resumes.
The tribunal later adjourned hearing to Tuesday 27th of June, at 3 pm.