The governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, the state capital, on Tuesday, 18 July, 2023 dismissed an objection raised by counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Gordy Uche (SAN), to the effect that under cross-examination, the petitioner’s witness must not be asked to compare his statement with those made by others.
Counsel to the 1st Respondent (INEC), Dr Remi Olatubora, had put questions across to a witness called by the PDP, Hon. Aina Adewale, from Sagamu, based on the similarities of his witness statement with two others, Sowande Seun, also from Sagamu and Ademola Adekunle, from Abeokuta North.
The similarities, according to the INEC’s counsel were to the extent of word for word and omission for omission, hence, the need to question the witness thoroughly to ascertain his veracity and accuracy.
However, in an objection to the application, the petitioner’s counsel said the Tribunal should not allow his witness to be questioned on documents which he did not author, quoting copiously Section 67 of the Evidence Act and other decided authorities.
In his response, counsel to INEC, Olatubora, prayed the panel to discountenance the objection, arguing that the points raised by the PDP’s counsel and his position on the points of law were irrelevant to the issue under review, relying on Section 223 of the Evidence Act.
He argued that the Evidence Act allows him to cross-examine a witness in any manner that tests the witness’ credibility and veracity.
He added that in line with the provision of that Section of the Evidence Act and in line with the spirit and letter of the 1999 constitution, which places a high premium on fair hearing, his position as the counsel to INEC confers the right on him to cross-examine the witness to test his veracity and knowledge.
Adding to Olatubora’s position, Governor Dapo Abiodun’s lawyer, Prof Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) added that one of the statutory purposes of cross-examination is to discover who a witness is.
He added that in that regard, asking a witness to compare his witness statement with the statements of other witnesses is allowed because it allows the witness to explain why his evidence is completely the same as the evidence of a witness from somewhere else, while also giving the Tribunal to discover whether the witness is a copycat or another form of an unreliable witness.
Counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Otunba Kunle Kalejaiye submitted that PDP’s lawyer had not shown to the Tribunal whether the question asked of the witness was scandalous, immodest, offensive, or of any other nature prohibited by law.
He joined the other lawyers to ask the Tribunal to overrule the objection.
The tribunal, therefore, overruled the objection raised by the counsel to PDP, referring to its previous rulings on similar objections.
In another development, counsel to the PDP was made to step down the appearance of a subpoenaed witness, a supposed INEC staff, who he claimed worked as a presiding officer during the March 18th governorship poll, after counsels to INEC raised objections to such testimony, citing the fact that the statement of the witness was only made yesterday and served on Respondents same day.