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Absence of INEC witnesses stalls Ekiti tribunal hearing

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The absence of witnesses of Independent National Electoral Commission stalled further proceedings in the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party at the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petitions on Wednesday.

Social Democratic Party, in the petition, is challenging the declaration by INEC of All Progressives Congress candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, as winner of the June 18 governorship election and seeking declaration by the tribunal of SDP candidate, Segun Oni, as the valid winner of the poll.

INEC, which witnesses were among those slated for Wednesday, had brought a motion on Tuesday, which the tribunal resolved to hear on Monday.

But when it was time for SDP to present a second witness for the day, counsel to the SDP and Oni, Obafemi Adewale, SAN, said the witness could not testify yet as the INEC witnesses were crucial to his evidence.

The Tribunal Chairman, Justice Wilfred Kpochi, in a brief ruling on the application by Adewale that SDP’s second witness could not testify based on absence of INEC’s witnesses ruled that the testimony of the second SDP witness be stepped down for now as he adjourned proceeding till Thursday.

Earlier, SDP State Chairman, Dr Bamidele Ekunola, who testified before the tribunal, faulted the election and result declared by INEC, saying, “The SDP candidate scored the highest lawful votes in the June 18 poll, adding that the election witnessed widespread voters’ inducement by APC and its candidate.

SDP counsel, Adewale, said, “We were expected to call the INEC witnesses today, but INEC brought a motion which we understand that they do not want to come and give evidence, but that motion has not been taken, it has been adjourned till Monday, because they only served the motion on Tuesday.

“Proceedings will continue on Thursday (today). We will continue with our witnesses. We thought we could bring one of the witnesses for tomorrow (Thursday), but the counsel to the respondents opposed that idea, but the tribunal said that to be orderly, it is better for the witnesses listed for tomorrow (Thursday) to come tomorrow (Thursday)”, Adewale said.

But counsel to Oyebanji, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, told journalists, “The petitioners were unable to go on with their case because they were not adequately prepared for what transpired in court. They could not call the witnesses they had submitted to the tribunal”.

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