By Our Reporter
A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar and presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu on Wednesday adjourned the hearing on a suit about the candidacy of Prince Bassey Otu as the All Progressive Congress (APC) guber candidate for the 2023 elections until Thursday for parties to reduce into writing, their arguments of whether an official of the West African Examinations Council, WAEC can testify.
Former lawmaker, Senator John Owan-Enoh had via an Originating Summons, approached the court in suit number FHC/CA/CS/95/2022 seeking among other prayers, the disqualification of Senator Otu as the APC Guber candidate. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the APC were joined as defendants.
And the matter was slated for parties to adopt their processes on Wednesday. At the resumption of hearing, counsel to the plaintiff, Awa Kalu, SAN said they had a staff of WAEC as witness to testify on the SSCE certificate of the third defendant, Senator Otu.
However, counsel to Otu, Mike Ozhekome, SAN raised an objection to this citing the rules of the Federal High Court that witnesses cannot be brought in a case commenced by an Originating Summons.
In his response, Kalu SAN said he needed time to respond to the issues raised by Ozhekom SAN and Justice Ojukwu ordered both parties to return before the Court by noon on Thursday after reducing their arguments to processes.
Kalu SAN, told journalists that to be qualified to run for party primaries, the aspirants must be cleared by the screening committee set up by the second defendant, APC and cleared to run for party primaries, which is a major criterion for aspirants participation in party primaries.
“Our submission is that, based on the documents available to us, the third defendant has not shown that he was fully cleared after screening and the plaintiff hasn’t an equal indication that there was an appeal to the screening committee from the third defendant,” Kalu explained.
On his part, Ozhekome told newsmen that the plaintiff cannot come with oral evidence in the case and cited the rules of the Court to that effect.
“Today the proceedings in the case of Senator John Owan Enoh, against Senator Bassey Otu, the man who defeated the plaintiff, Senator Enoh, with a whopping 877 votes, while Senator John Owan Enoh got a miserable 84 votes; a difference of over eight hundred votes.
“The case came up today, and when the counsel to the plaintiff, Senator Enoh started submitting, he brought in a witness from the West African Examination Council, without telling the Court why he was bringing a witness from WAEC, what conflict he wanted to resolve by the witness as required by law.
“Meanwhile, order 4 rule 1 of the Federal High Court pre-election practice direction makes it clear that you can only come to court by way of originating summons, which must be brought by way of affidavit evidence.
“The law is that he cannot now come suddenly, to bring in oral evidence by calling someone from WAEC to come and testify, we don’t know what he wants to testify about; but the law is that before he can even be allowed to testify, he must first show the contradiction he wants to address, which he has not shown.
“He cannot call oral evidence after the matter started by originating summons. Resulting from these arguments, Enoh’s counsel said he wasn’t ready to respond to my submission, and asked for a short date. So the court has granted us a short adjournment to put our thoughts in writing,” Ozhekome explained.