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2 senior counsel in heated argument over calling witness in Niger election tribunal

Two senior counsel appearing in the Niger Governorship Election Tribunal on Friday engaged in a heated argument over calling a witness, as Gov. Abubakar Bello, closed his case.

At the resumed hearing, counsel to Gov. Bello (the first respondent), Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, who had hinted at the last sitting on Thursday that he would be bringing his client to testify before the tribunal, said he was no longer calling any witnesses.

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Okutepa noted that having thoroughly reviewed the evidence presented by the petitioners and exhibits he tendered through PW1 during cross-examination, there was no need for him to call any witness.

“The first respondent has waived the right to call our witness because there is nothing to call witnesses for, and so we close our case,” he said No sooner had he said that, that counsel to the petitioners,

Mohammed Ndayako, rose to his feet and joked that the first respondent counsel was afraid of calling his witness. However, the joke did not go down well with Okutepa who demanded an apology from Ndayako although he refused,

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insisting he was only joking like the two of them always do. Ndayako said he attended law school in 1990 when the SAN was still in university and could not have meant what he said, to which the SAN replied,

“this is another insult on me my lords, and I won’t take it.’’ A visibly angry Okutepa then ordered Ndayako and other counsels sitting in the front row where he was seated to vacate their seats and go back.

“It would have been a different thing if he said my client was afraid to come but to say that I am afraid to call my witness is something I won’t take. “I take strong exception to that and since he does not want to apologize,

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my lords, I am left with no option but to ask him to leave here before I can continue,” he stressed. Ndayako quickly went to sit behind when J.N Kalamu, one of the elderly counsels on his team and J.J Usman, counsel to APC

(second respondent) intervened and apologized to the SAN on his behalf. The quick intervention of the two counsels seemed to have calmed frayed nerves as Okutepa then got up and also apologized to the tribunal for the ugly incident

after which he asked Ndayako to return to his seat. At this point, Ndayako returned to his place and apologized to Okutepa, saying he never intended the joke the way his senior colleague took it.

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The chairman of the tribunal, John Igboji, after that told counsels that jokes were no longer allowed and they should strictly stick to their business in court. The court session soon continued as the counsel to the APC,

J.J Usman sought to tender some documents in evidence which was objected to by the petitioners’ counsel. The matter was adjourned until June 29 for ruling on the admissibility of the materials. NAN reports that Umar Nasko,

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the PDP candidate in the March governorship election in the state had dragged the APC candidate, Abubakar Bello and his deputy, Ahmed Ketso, before the tribunal for allegedly presenting forged academic and birth certificates to INEC.