There was a tension yesterday at the Ogun state Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, the State capital and proceedings had to be adjourned abruptly.
The Allied Peoples Movement (APM) is challenging the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Prince Dapo Abiodun in the March 9 Governorship election.
Proceedings had begun and three witnesses had been crossed examined by the plaintiff’s lead counsel, Sebastine Hon (SAN).
But frightened by the large number of APC supporters at the court premises, coupled with the allegation that the APM Governorship candidate, Adekunle Akinlade had been withdrawn, Hon moved a motion that sitting should be adjourned to allow adequate security arrangement to be made as their lives and that of their clients were not safe.
He alleged “The witnesses who are to come and testify have been threatened just yesterday. One of them, the father came and told us that his life is under threat. The rest have been under threat as well.
He told the three man judges “We need to examine the security situation and secure our witnesses before we present them to the court.”
He disclosed “Police security of the first petitioner (Akinlade) have been withdrawn. Our lives are threatened. It is a matter of life.”
“Please we are only appealing that we are allowed to strengthen our security. This is the situation we have found ourselves in, it is our challenge.”
The defence counsel, Abeeb Ajayi however countered Hon’s allegation, saying “I want to put it on record. I say it with a sense of responsibility, this state is one the reputed peaceful state in this country, socially or politically.”
“I want to say that the reason for this adjournment is unacceptable.”
“The identity of these witnesses is unknown. They are only known to the petitioners. That cannot be the reason for seeking an adjournment. If they have been able to call 28 witnesses. There is no reason why they cannot call the additional 22.”
Abeeb stressed “My clients have not threatened anybody and therefore using that basis to secure an adjournment is an excuse taken too far. ”
“If witnesses are not available, it is better they say so. We don’t want this process stalled unnecessarily. I am sure this Tribunal is taken aback by this allegation and we are all surprised.”
After listening to the argument of both counsel, Justice Yusuf Halilu, chairman of the Tribunal stated ” This place is a very peaceful place. The petitioner has the right to communicate his fears to the court.”
“If indeed there is any iota of truth in the claim, I want you all to look into it.”
Halilu told both counsel to meet the state police Commissioner and urge him to provide adequate security at the subsequent sittings and then adjourned the case to Monday.