The Candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the December 5, 2020, for the seat of the Cross River North Senatorial bye election, Joe Agi has called on the Senatorial election tribunal sitting in Calabar to declare PDP’s votes as “wasted” votes.
Agi, who is challenging the PDP victory at the tribunal had in Suit N0: EPT/CR/SEN/03/2020, challenged the declaration of Dr. Stephen Odey of the PDP by INEC as the winner of the December senatorial election.
The APC candidate argued that in the event where the tribunal agrees with his submissions, having come second in the polls, he should be declared the lawful winner.
The Petitioner, who closed his case on Thursday equally asked the tribunal to order INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was earlier presented to Okey, and recognize him the winner of the election.
His lead counsel Mathew Burke tendered Exhibit B1 to B57 as an addition to Exhibit A1 to A 27 earlier tendered and admitted by the Tribunal.
The prayer was however objected by all the four respondents in the case; Steven Odey – 1st respondent, Hon. Jerigbe Agom Jerigbe – 2nd respondent, Peoples Democratic Party PDP – 3rd respondent and Independent National Electoral Commission, even as they told the court that they reserved their reasons for the objection to be made known in their final address to the petition.
The documents were finally admitted as Exhibit B1 to B57 pending the final judgment in the Petition.
The respondents’ counsels cross-examined Agi who explained that he was in no way challenging the result of the election but making a case on points of law and facts that the PDP had no known candidate for the election in question as at December 5, 2020 when the polls held.
“The votes cast for the PDP were wasted because they had no known candidate and INEC in the publication of the final list of candidates of political parties to the election, had no name on the space for the PDP. No political party can go into an election without a known candidate in Nigeria. That is why the APC lost Zamfara state to the PDP. In this case, the lawful thing to do in the light of the wasted votes on PDP is to declare me, being the first runner’s up as the winner. I urge the Tribunal to allow my petition,” Agi said.
Counsel to the 1st respondent, Olabode Olanikpekun SAN in his cross-examination brought out documents showing that the Petitioner, Agi, had been a Counsel to the 1st respondents in a case he had against NIMASA wherein the 1st respondent was wrongfully dismissed on account of alleged fraud; That the same case has been cited in his current petition which suggests that a counsel is using client information against him having been privileged to have it as a counsel.
Agi defended his petition that in nowhere did he say in his petition that Steven Odey is not qualified to stand election, instead, he was establishing the fact that the PDP had no candidate.
According to Agi, in citing the case where he was counsel to Steven Odey, he was only correcting the facts which the 1st respondent gave wrongfully. The correct information as in the state of the case of wrongful dismissal is that Odey is currently before the Supreme Court for determination of the case after NIMASA got a favourable judgment upturning the verdict of the lower court which was in Odey’s favour.
The tribunal however urged that the 1st respondent’s counsel sticks to the petition for which he did and tried to make the petitioner give evidence that could contradict his exhibits.
Counsels to the 2nd respondent, Mba Ukweni SAN and that of the 3rd Respondent, Emmanuel Enoidem Esq both tried to establish their arguments that the petition was supposed to be a pre-election matter and that the petitioner not being a member of the PDP, has no business challenging their internal affairs.
The petitioner however, noted that he observed the infighting within the PDP and saw the opening for which he could exploit in his favour.
He said; “My Lords, the crux of my case is that PDP had no known candidate. Till date their crisis is still on and the 4th respondent has so far issued certificate of return to two different persons laying claims to an election they did not participate in all the process as it is lawfully expected.”
On Thursday, morning being the third day of commencement of hearing, the petitioner took the respondents by surprise by not calling more witnesses and closing their case very early. A member of the petitioners’ legal team, Muhammad Shui’ebu explained that their case is based on documentary evidence and so far, all the relevant documents have been tendered and admitted.
With the close of the petitioner’s case, the 1st respondent was to open his case immediately but his lead Counsel Olabode Olanikpekun pleaded that he needs to get his client and other witnesses to be in court before opening his case.
The Tribunal granted the request and adjourned till March 24, 2021 for the 1st respondent to open his case.