The Lagos state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Monday dismissed an application by the candidate to the People’s Democratic Party who was seeking to cross examine his subpoenaed witness over claims of not being truthful in his evidence.
Olajide Adediran’s lead Counsel, Clement Onwuenwunor (SAN) had presented his next witness, Adekanmbi Olaolu, a staff of the West African Examination Council’s (WAEC) National Office in Lagos, subpoenaed by the tribunal at his instance.
Contrary to the petitioner’s claims that Governor Sanwo-Olu (the second respondent) didn’t possess a school leaving certificate.
The official presented a document bearing a May/June O’level result bearing the names of the Governor issued in 1981 by one Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School.
The three member tribunal headed by Justice Arum Ashom admitted the document among the lost of exhibits now before it.
But, the petitioner’s counsel told the tribunal that the evidence of the witness was adverse to its earlier findings after a search on WAEC’s online result verification portal which had allegedIy indicated the absence of the Governor’s names and result on it.
He also applied to the tribunal for leave to cross examine the witness in order to challenge the accuracy of the WAEC official’s evidence.
“There is a major conflict between what the witness has just brought and what we earlier tendered which was also issued by WAEC. Our search before the polls had discovered that the governor had no result on WAEC’s portal and now this witness is bringing something different which contradicts their earlier position. He is not being a witness of truth. He has also refused to give more evidence on what he presented, and says the Council doesn’t produce hard copy of certificates or retain duplicate certificates.”
In their responses, INEC’s counsel, Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN) described the petitioner’s grouse as a storm in a teacup.
“This witness hasn’t made two contradictory statements. there is nothing to warrant treating him as a hostile witness. At the very best, he has only given evidence not palatable to my learned friend. We urge you to refuse the application of the Petitioner.”
Counsel, Muiz- Banire (SAN) representing the governor and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, who are the second and third respondents in the petition, also aligned himself with INEC’s position.
“Exhibit P36 is a product of one ijebu ife community grammar school, not WAEC while exhibit b2 is a product of one grandex ventures LTD, not WAEC. No one has led evidence to establish the authenticity of that portal so the attachment to it is totally unreliable. No witness has even testified on the said grandex, section 230 of the Evidence Act doesn’t avail the petitioner the right to seek leave of court to declare the witness hostile.”
The fourth respondent, the All Progressives Congress’ counsel, Abiodun
Owonikoko (SAN) on his part said the option for the Petitioner to cross examine the witness is foreclosed as he has already ended his examination in Chief with the witness.
“A hostile witness isn’t the same as an unfavorable witness. This is a case of contrived hostility, he should sink or swim with his witness as only the Court can label a witness as hostile.”
But the Labour party and it’s candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the fifth and sixth respondents urged the tribunal to grant the petitoner’s request, saying the witness was being hostile to the truth and exhibiting animosity.
In its ruling, the tribunal held that the petitioner couldn’t cross examine the witness, and that the exhibit containing the findings from the portal
Couldn’t be linked to WAEC directly. It ordered only the other counsel to cross examine the WAEC official.
The witness told the tribunal during cross examination that the governor was found to have been entitled to a certificate issued by the school in question and that the online portal didn’t exist as at 1981.
“Since there was no portal in 1981, this Master list of 581 candidates that sat for the exam at the school is the primary information that will be fed into the result verification portal.
“I think electronic registration of candidates started in 2004 for migrating results we have three portals.
“The council doesn’t retain duplicate copies of certificates.”