The Edo Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Benin on Tuesday decried the failure of Mr Onyinye Anunonye, counsel to the Independent National electoral commission(INEC) to call witnesses in its defence in a petition before it.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Osagie Ize-Iyamu, its candidate in the Sept. 28 governorship election, in their petition, are challenging the declaration by INEC of Mr Godwin Obaseki as the winner of the election.
The petitioners had named the INEC, Obaseki and the APC as first, second and third respondents respectively in the petition. INEC had declared Obaseki winner of the Edo governorship election after he polled 319,483 votes to defeat Ize-Iyamu, his closest rival, who scored 250,000 votes.
The petitioners are alleging that the said election was fraught with electoral fraud in some units and wards in the 18 local government areas of the state. They are asking the tribunal to declare Ize-Iyamu as the winner from the valid votes cast.
The petitioners closed their case on Friday after calling 91 witnesses and tendered used ballot papers, results and voter register before the Justice Ahmed Badamasi-led three-member election petition tribunal.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Anunonye informed the tribunal that he could not open his defence, saying he had no witnesses to call in the case. Shortly after announcing his appearance, Anunonye said “I know the tribunal adjourned till today for us to open our defence. Unfortunately, we have challenges.
“The first is the scheduling of time of the senior counsel in the case for the first respondent which makes it impossible for any of them to be here today.
“And the second and the most important is the challenge of logistics which has made it impossible for any of our witnesses to be in court.”
He explained that many of the witnesses were former NYSC members who had passed out and who resided outside Benin, adding “we have sent them text messages.
“But we have not been able to meet with them to interact and streamline our witnesses to be called in other to present a defence for the respondent.