Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State, on Friday, failed to appear before the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
It was recalls that the Tribunal had on Thursday, ordered a substituted service of a subpoena on Mbah through his lawyer.
This was following an application by counsel to the People’s Redemption Party, PRP, Barr Alex Amujiogo.
The subpoena was immediately served on Mbah’s lawyer by Amujiogo.
However, when the case came up today, Friday, the PRP counsel told the Tribunal that Mbah did not honour the summons.
Amujiogo said, “This Honourable Tribunal had on June 22, 2023 made an order that the subpoena be served on Barr Peter Mbah through his counsel. We have since done that for him to appear today.
“My Lord, it is obvious that he is not in court under the pretence of immunity.
“And today is my last day for me to close my case; my hands are tied and I have no choice but to close my case.”
When asked of his next line of action, Amujiogo told journalists: “It is now left for the tribunal, in the course of this matter to know the next step that they will undertake as regards his refusal or inability to appear today before the Tribunal; let us watch and see the battle will be like, between the tribunal and the governor.
“It has two legs- the tribunal can exercise its power of sanctions against the person who refuses his order; you also know that judgement is always at hand; it is the last option. The ball is on the court of the Tribunal to do things one way or the other.”
However, the lead counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Barr Anthony Ani (SAN) told journalists after the Tribunal sitting that the petitioner did not comply with the provisions of the law while serving the subpoena.
He said the Governor was ready to appear had the petitioners done the right thing.
According to Ani, “The petitioner has not complied with the mandatory provisions of the law; the default provision, respecting election petitions, is the Federal High Court Rules, which is very clear on service of Subpoena Testificandum or Duces Tecum.
“Now when you serve a subpoena, that subpoena should have been filed alongside the originating process, that is the petition.
“And in filing it, you have to comply with the relevant order; I think Order 3, Rule 4 of the Federal High Court Rules and serve the witness you are subpoenaing with what we call Form 1A; that form 1A, with mandate the witness to file witness deposition on oath, and then you also serve the witness you are expecting with your pleadings.
“In this case, they should have served the governor with the petition, to enable the Governor file a deposition on oath, and then come to court to adopt that deposition.
“So you don’t serve just ordinary paper, that’s what the Court of Appeal called it, you don’t just serve only the subpoena without the accompanying documents. If they had complied with the provisions of the rules of court, I’m sure the governor must have been here;
“There is no issue of immunity here; if they had done the proper thing, the governor would have been here, but they didn’t comply with the law, if you comply we will comply, if you don’t, we won’t comply.”
Meanwhile, the Tribunal led by Justice K. M. Akano adjourned the case to June 24, 2023, for the 1st Respondent (the Independent National Electoral Commission) to open its defence.