Thursday, 6 August 2015


At the Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal on 5/08/2015:

Contrary to the assertion by the PDP governorship candidate in the April 11th gubernatorial elections, Rt Hon Terhemen Tarzoor, that Governor Samuel Ortom was not qualified to contest the gubernatorial elections on the grounds that he did not resign his membership of the PDP was put to rest yesterday by a former Nzorov Ward chairman of the party, Felix Agbaka.

Agbaka and the current Nzorov ward chairman of the APC, Adikpe Ukuremo Ezekiel, were led in evidence by Governor Ortom's lead counsel, Israel Olorundare, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

The two were supeoned to appear before the three member tribunal by the Benue state Governor to show proof that he validly left the PDP and joined the All Progressives Congress, APC on December 9th 2014 and joined the APC the same day.

But before the two were granted leave to give evidence by the tribunal, counsel to the petitioner, Adebayo Adenipekun, SAN challenged the competence of the witnesses, because according to him, a witness so supeoned by the court must be one who is an "adverse witness."

The legal exchanges by counsels to both the petitioner and the respondents led the tribunal to adjourn for more than an hour to deliver its ruling in the arguments that followed.

Adenipekun cited several authorities in Lasun vs Awoyemi reported in 2011 All NWLR pt 577 page 713; Plan iyange vs Oyebola, (2008) All NWLR pt 399, page 503; Shittu vs Alebe (2011) All NWLR pt 595 page 343, to back up his objections.

Governor Ortom's objections were hinged on the principle that once a witness is subpoenaed to produce documents, it's immaterial if those documents were listed for production or not.

Olorundare, SAN and counsel to Ortom then countered his learned silk, citing Omidiran vs Etteh (2011) 2NWLR Pt 1232 page 471 @501, Onyedepelo vs Nwaneri (2008) 2 PELR and Famakinwa vs UK (1992) Pt 253 @ page 608 as authorities upon which the two witnesses so supeoned should be admitted to give evidence and their documents admitted.

When the tribunal resumed sitting at about noon, the tribunal chairman in her ruling agreed with the submission of the petitioners counsel, but however overuled the petitioner in favour of the governor, saying that for the sake of justice, the two should be allowed to give evidence.

During cross examination, the former Nzorov Ward Chairman of the PDP tendered the governor’s resignation letter from the PDP which he said he received on 9th December, 2014.

Thereafter, the APC Nzorov Ward chairman, Adikpe Ukuremo Ezekiel, told the tribunal that he registered Governor Ortom on the same date after he approached him and also issued him a membership card with serial No: 381 and card number 04010423.

Even when the PDP lawyer wanted to contradict the APC Nzorov ward chairman, whether it was right for him as the chairman, instead of the ward secretary of the party to register Ortom under the constitution of the party, he countered, saying that, "even if the secretary is to register anybody, he (the secretary) won't register anybody without my consent," stressing that besides, "Ortom's registration was done in the presence of the entire executive of the party at the ward."

Agbaka during cross examination also identified both the memebership card and register containing the names of members of the party at the ward level and which also has the name of governor Ortom.

He also told the tribunal that given the personality of the new member, he immediately wrote to the local government chairman of the party on January 15th, 2015, notifying him about what he described as the 'big catch' and later took the party register to the state secretariat.

Agbaka also identified the letter he had written to the local government party chairman before the tribunal.
Both the letter and all other documents tendered were admitted in evidence and marked accordingly as exhibits.

By this development, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, succesfully opened and closed his defence at the Governorship Elections Tribunal sitting in Makurdi.

Other respondents to the PDP petition, challenging the validity of Ortom, the APC and Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, are expected to open their defence tomorrow and call witnesses.

Thereafter, the Tribunal chairman, Elizabeth Karatu adjourned the sitting to the next day.

From the evidences by the two supeoned witnesses, it was established that:
*Ortom validly resigned his membership of the PDP on December 9th 2014
*And that Samuel Ortom validly joined the APC on the same date of December 9th, 2014 having fulfilled all conditions.

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