Two witnesses, including an herbalist, Adeesu Abiodu, swore to an oath with a cutlass (god of iron) and testified against Governor Dapo Abiodun before the Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, on Friday.
The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ladi Adebutu, who filed the petition against Abiodun, formally opened his case by calling witnesses.
The calling of witnesses followed the admission of all undisputed exhibits as tendered from the bar by the petitioners on Thursday.
As the court resumed on Friday, the petitioner‘s counsel, Gordy Uche, told the tribunal that “the petitioners intend to start their trial by calling their witnesses.”
According to the Senior Advocate, he had filed a schedule of witnesses that the petitioners intended to call, in compliance with the prehearing report.
With no objections from the respondents’ legal team, the Hamidu Kunaza-led tribunal permitted the petitioners to call their witnesses.
Uche informed the tribunal that the petitioners intended to call 11 witnesses for the day.
The witnesses were cross-examined by Dr Remi Olatubora (SAN), counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Prof Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), representing Abiodun and Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) of the APC.
There was a mild drama when two of the witnesses, Adeeso Abiodun, an herbalist and a female trader, Oluwanifemi Akinyemi, opted to swear with cutlass (god of iron) before testifying before the tribunal.
Both Akinyemi and Abiodun who reside in Sagamu told the tribunal how the March 18 governorship election was disrupted by suspected political thugs in the area.
Another witness, Oduwole Ganiyu Adekunle, also from Sagamu Local government area of the state, alleged that, thugs hired by APC disrupted voting in his polling unit.
Oduwole said the thugs armed with guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons stormed his polling unit and hijacked ballot boxes and other voting materials.
He added that the thugs also chased INEC officials and voters away thereby preventing other people from voting.
“My Lord, around 1.47pm on the election day, APC thugs carrying guns disrupted voting in my polling units.
“They (thugs) wore masks and threatened us. They were shouting ‘if you cannot vote for APC and Dapo Abiodun, leave the polling centre’.
“They started beating and harassing everyone. They took the ballot boxes and papers. Some of them were even wearing APC handbands”, Oduwole said.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen, counsel for INEC, Olatubora, said he took part in the cross-examination to ensure that documents presented before the tribunal originated from the electoral umpire.
Olatubora, while describing himself as an independent party, noted that he had to maintain some level of neutrality, stating that the trial was going on well.
“I basically want to be sure that the documents that are presented before the tribunal originated from INEC. I want to be sure that those who presented INEC’s PVCs and testified as witnesses are also presenting the authentic PVC given by INEC. Having ascertained that, as the lawyer for an independent party, I have to maintain some level of neutrality but the trial has gone very very well, it is going smoothly,” Olatubora stated.
Also, counsels for the petitioners as well as those of the second and third respondents expressed satisfaction with the process of the trial.
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