OTTI VS IKPEAZU: COUNSELS CLASH DURING PROCEEDINGS, AS PRESIDING JUDGE ACCUSED OF BIAS

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Counsels of both the People’s Democratic Party [PDP] and All Progressives Grand Alliance [APGA], on Monday July 8th 2019, almost engaged in a physical brawl at the ongoing Tribunal hearing and cross examination of APGA witnesses.

Quarrel started when a co-counsel to the PDP, Joe Igwe and INEC lawyer Zakari Garba asked a witness Mr. Godswill Otti who in his deposition, said he worked as an agent and voted at Unit 3 ward 8 Umuola Road OgborHill Aba, to take a look at his deposition which he tendered before the court on the 29th of March 2019 to explain why he is testifying falsely to the court by saying it was at unit 2 that he worked as an agent and not unit 3 as documented in his written evidence.

Counsel to APGA immediately jumped up to caution his learned colleague Joe Igwe to sit down as it was not his turn to cross examine the witness. But counsel to PDP insisted that he will not sit down as he has observed that the witness in question was giving a false testimony to the court.

But the presiding judge said he was right by law to have stood up to observe what he saw as a wrong thing on the side of the witness, wondering why the witness could not know the Unit he worked as an agent.

This action never went down well with counsel to APGA Abiodun Owonikoko [SAN] who immediately described the court proceedings as bias for not giving a fair hearing to the witness, even when he has reversed himself that it was a mistake, adding that mistake occurs always.

Owonikoko insisted that the witness was being misquoted, but the judge said that he has adopted what the witness said that he never worked as an agent at unit 003 but 002. However, counsel to APGA further explained that the judge was too hasty to have written it down because the witness was misquoted.

He said it is wrong for the judge to adopt it without fair hearing for the witness who has reversed himself that he voted and worked as an agent at unit 003 and not 002 as mentioned earlier.

Another witness Mr. Patrick Ohis of unit 004 ward 3 Osusu Aba was asked by counsel to INEC to sign his signature for the court to authenticate it, but the presiding judge ruled it out and said such has no basis, prompting another round of square up between judge and INEC lawyer who explained that it would have been good for the witness to sign his signature.

The judge, however cautioned both counsels, pointing out that election petitions are very critical and that they must not heat up the system. He further promised all to be fair to them as they make progress.

In all, about 8 APGA witnesses were cross examined, just as the judge adjourned till Tuesday the 9th of July 2019 for more hearing.         

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