JEGEDE CLOSES CASE AGAINST AKEREDOLU WITHOUT CALLING WITNESSES

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Jegede

• Court dismisses suit challenging gov’s nomination
There was a mild drama yesterday at the Ondo State Governorship Tribunal sitting in Akure, as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the October 10,2020 contest, Eyitayo Jegede, refused to call any of his 400 witnesses to prove his electoral malpractice claims.

He had headed for the panel to contest the return of his All Progressives Congress (APC) rival and incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, as winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

At the time of filing this report, only Jegede had been called to the witness box to testify.

This came as the Federal High Court, Abuja dismissed a suit challenging validity of the primary that produced the governor as candidate of his party.

Ruling yesterday on the case instituted by one Mrs. Olajumoke Anifowose, Justice Iyang Ekwo held that the application was statue-barred, having been filled outside the 14 days allowed by law for a pre-election matter.

The applicant, through her counsel, Adesina Oke, had challenged the indirect primary that nominated Akeredolu as standard-bearer of the ruling party.

She argued that Section 87 of the Electoral Act and Article 20 of the APC constitution, as well as other relevant election guidelines were allegedly flouted by the state and local government executive committees during the exercise.

Before adjourning to yesterday, the tribunal had, on Tuesday, dismissed the complaints of the petitioners as mere frivolities, as the defence described PDP as meddlesome interloper.

Lead lawyers to INEC and APC, Chief Charles Uyi Edosomwan (SAN) and Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), argued that the crux of claims by the PDP was pre-election affairs.

They contended that APC’s decision to sponsor Akeredolu for the poll was taken in July last year.

Jegede, while being cross-examined, had faulted both his rival’s mode of selection and collation of the election results by the umpire.

Edosomwan wondered why the petitioners would employ an alleged crisis in the APC to launch a legal attack, querying: “Mr. Jegede, are you a member of the All Progressives Congress?”

He maintained that only authorised staff of the electoral body that could speak on wrong vote tagging to candidates.

“You are not an electoral officer, and therefore, not in a position to know if figures were wrongly credited or not,” the senior lawyer told the complainant.

On what may have informed the petitioners’ decision, a chieftain told some reporters that the development might not be unconnected with the crisis rocking the political group.

He regretted that the party leadership allowed the crisis to “fester to the extent of adversely affecting the case at the tribunal.”

However, attorney to the complainants, Onyechi Ipeazu, said they opted to narrow their case to the evidence presented before the court.

While INEC lawyer, Edosomwan prayed for time to respond, his APC colleague, Fagbemi, did not oppose the prayer.

The tribunal thereafter adjourned till next Tuesday to enable the first respondent, INEC, open evidence in rebuttal.

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