Osun State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has told the Election Petition Tribunal that the state office of the commission was not in custody of the certificates of Senator Ademola Adeleke.
The electoral officer made this declaration on Tuesday at the resumed hearing of the petition filed by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the declaration of Ademola Adeleke of the PDP as Governor-elect.
The REC was billed to appear before the panel in line with a Subpoena issued on him to produce form CF001 of Adeleke which contained his credentials used for the 2018 governorship election.
This was even as one of the Petitioners’ witnesses, Evangelist Rasak Adeosun while giving evidence before the panel told the tribunal that Adeleke did not attend any university, hence he could not have obtained any certificate.
At the resumed hearing, the counsel for INEC, Professor Paul Ananaba had told the tribunal that the REC could not be brought to court, because he was not aware that the application filed against the Subpoena issued on him had been withdrawn.
After series of arguments, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Tertsea Kume insisted that whether there was an application against the Subpoena or not, the REC or his representative was supposed to be in court to bring the documents requested.
The proceedings then took a dramatic turn when suddenly, the representative of the REC, Mr Sheu Mohammed, the Deputy Director, Election and Party Monitoring who had been in court abinitio rose and told the court that he was around to represent the REC.
It was at this point that the INEC Counsel also retracted his statement and said he has just been informed that the representative of REC was around.
When asked to produce the documents requested for, Mohammed told the tribunal that the state office of the commission was not in custody of the documents, saying the copies given to it had been discarded shortly after the 2018 election.
He said: “We are not in custody of the documents, the documents were submitted to the National Headquarters. We were only given photocopies by the National Headquarters for display.
“After we might have done with litigations, the only record we kept in our office are form EC8A Series. ”
Asked by the tribunal to produce the said photocopies given to the state office, the witness said: “We don’t have the photocopies again. We have decongested our system”.
Counsel for Oyetola, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN) subsequently argued that the attitude of the REC was mainly not to obey the tribunal order issued on REC to produce the documents.
He said, even if the state office of the commission did not have the requested documents, “REC is representing INEC here and he has a duty to obtain the said documents at their National Headquarters and he has not said that the National Headquarters cannot find that document.
“So, he cannot excuse the duty of obedience to that Subpoena by his lame explanation that it was submitted to the national headquarters.
“My Lord, I will apply that your Lordship should direct the REC to approach the national headquarters and obtain the said documents. They had disobeyed the first order and if they like they should disobey the second order”, Olujinmi argued.
The tribunal subsequently directed the Oyetola’s counsel to Section 253(2) of the Evidence Act which indicated that violator of such court order is liable to an arrest and be committed to prison.
Oyetola’s counsel said he was only being humane, as he would have applied for committal, saying “police is here to arrest him. I don’t see how you can escape from this one”.
Responding to the arguments, counsel for INEC, Professor Ananaba said, “the representative of REC is here and REC is different from INEC. So, the Subpoena has been complied with because the representative of REC is here to tell the court he is not in custody of the said documents.”
He argued that the tribunal does not have the power to make another order in the same line, claiming that the first order had been complied with.
Counsel for Adeleke, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) in his own objection said since the documents requested to be produce by the INEC are Certified True Copies (CTC), it can be applied and paid for, without necessarily bringing the REC to the court.
He then argued that based on the fact that the Petitioners’ already have the CTC at their disposal, they should be compelled to continue with the calling of the witnesses whose testimony hanged on the documents requested from INEC.
Counsel for PDP, Alex Izinyon, SAN also said that since the petitioners already have the documents in question, they should be compelled to call the witness.
Olujinmi while replying said the respondents’ counsel lost track in the course of their arguments, saying there was an order of the court through subpoena which have not been complied with.
He noted that counsel in the case ought not to do anything that will obstruct the proceeding of the court, saying the issue of the Subpoena is sufficient enough to compel the INEC again to produce the documents.
The tribunal then adjourned ruling on the argument of counsel on the failure of INEC to produce the said documents till Friday, 25th November.
Meanwhile, one of the Petitioners’ witnesses, Evangelist Rasak Adeosun while giving evidence before the panel told the tribunal that Adeleke did not attend any university, hence he could not have obtained any certificate.
Asked by Adeleke counsel whether he was a staff of the university attended by Adeleke, Adeosun replied: “Did he attend any university, how would I be a staff of the university he didn’t attend”.
He insisted that Adeleke does not have any certificate, just as he told the panel that “I know that there is over-voting, as the total number of the votes cast is more than the accredited voters on BVAS reports.
Adeosun, who served as the state collation agent for the APC hinted that he received reports of the happenings in the polling units on the election day and discovered that there was no substantial compliance with the INEC guidelines and the Electoral Act in the contentious 749 polling units.