Thursday, October 8, 2015

Umana Optimistic Of Victory, As Tribunal Resumes Thursday

By Ekele Peter Agbo
Date: Oct 7, 2015
Source: Copyright © 2015 Leadership Newspaper. All Rights Reserved


After a two week adjournment, the Akwa Ibom governorship tribunal sitting in Abuja resumes Thursday to adopt written addresses by parties in the matter.

Umana Okon Umana
Candidate for the All Progressive Congress in the election, Umana Umana had approached the tribunal challenging conduct of the poll and declaration of Udom Emmanuel as winner.

At the last sitting, the Justice Sadiq Umar-led panel directed that the respondents should file and serve their final written addresses on the petitioners within seven days beginning from Monday, September 21, 2015, while the petitioners should file and serve their final written addresses on the respondents within four days.

In the sitting which lasted for about three months, the prosecution called over 60 witnesses.

The tribunal which was supposed to sit in Akwa Ibom, was relocated to Abuja, following reports of violence.

Shortly after that, one of the respondents in the matter, Udom Emmanuel, filed an application before the Justice Sadiq Umar led panel for it to be relocated back to Uyo, but the tribunal dismissed the application, while tagging other demands by Udom’s counsel as academic exercise that has been overtaken by events.

Justice Sadiq dismissed the motion in its entirety based on security implication which supports the provision in Paragraph 20(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act on accessibility.

The petitioner’s (Umana Umana & APC) team was led by Dayo Akinlaja, SAN, Sen Idta Enang with 10 others and for the 1st respondent (Udom Emmanuel) team was led by Paul Usoro, Offiong Offiong, SAN and 10 others, 2nd respondent (PDP) led by Adekunle Oyesanya and 4 others, while for the 3rd & 4th respondent (INEC & REC) was led by Tobechukwu Nweke.

The tribunal granted most of the requests sought by the petitioners during the sitting. Among them was the inspection of ballot papers used for the election. Forensic experts were called to inspect the materials. Testifying before the tribunal, the experts alleged that they found non human prints and multiple thumbprints on the cards. They said over 100,000 ballot papers had non-human prints. The ballot papers were later admitted in evidence. Other witnesses who testified for the prosecution insisted that elections did not hold in the state and that there was wide spread violence. They alleged that several people belonging to the opposition died in the violence. The governorship candidate also took the stand as witness. Video exhibits were used to show what transpired during the polls.

The tribunal saw videos showing Umana addressing the press and highlighting the case of election fraud in his polling unit on the day of election. The next video showed him having a discussion with the Electoral Officer who was confirming that election materials were indeed carted away. The third video showed a set of INEC ad hoc staff (youth corpers) stamping ballot papers behind INEC office days after the election. The 4th video showed a PDP Local Government Chairman presiding over a massive operation of ballot box stamping using thugs. The fifth video showed a police truck and an Akwa Ibom State Corporation bus allegedly used to cart away election materials and intimidate voters who dispersed in fear. The sixth video showed bandits caught with election materials. The seventh video showed a collation centre and how the marks were tallied and written on forms.

In his testimony, Umana maintained that there was no election in his ward and that he was unable to cast his vote. After Umana closed his case, Governor Udom Emmanuel opened defense, with witnesses who claimed that the election was peacefully conducted throughout the state.

The first defence witness, Dr. Bassey Asuquo told the tribunal that the election was conducted without violence and that he voted in the polls.

Led in evidence by Mr Paul Usoro (SAN) counsel to Governor Udom, the witness who claimed to be a medical scientist and polling agent of the PDP denied allegations of ballot boxes hijacking and any form of violence.

He said in his testimony that results were collated from all the 14 units in Uyo local government except in three units where he admitted that the election could not be conducted because of violence.

However under cross examination by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) counsel to the APC and its governorship candidate Chief Umana Okon Umana, the witness admitted that 941 votes were recorded for the PDP in the unit he claimed election did not hold.

The witness also read out results sheets from different units signed by one Joseph Okon Peter who claimed to be a collation agent of the PDP.

Other witnesses were Mr. Godwin Ndukude, Isaiah Abia and one Maxwell. In his evidence, Mr. Godwin Ndukude, a former commissioner for transport claimed that the election was free and fair and that he voted in the poll.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is the 2nd Respondent, on its part closed its defence abruptly after failing to call more witnesses at two previous sittings of the tribunal. The PDP had listed 23 witnesses. One of them, who is Chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area and PDP chapter collation agent for the April 11,2015 Governorship election, Barr Chris Okorie contradicted himself when he denied ever knowing that Barr Emmanuel Enoidem was the PDP State Collation Officer of the PDP. He had earlier made two witness statements on oath before the tribunal, one as a witness to the 1st respondent where he admitted that he accompanied Enoidem from the Etim Ekpo Local Government Collation center to the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where the results were collated and declared and another where he deposed to on behalf of PDP of which he was cross examined as a witness.

After the PDP closed its case, the tribunal ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to open its defence on the allegation of aiding election malpractice.

Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Sadiq Umar, made the order after counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), announced that the party will not present additional witnesses originally listed to testify at the tribunal.

The Independent National Electoral Commission called four witnesses in the matter. The commission had listed a total of about 100 witnesses. One of INEC’s witnesses, Mr. Pius Nwankwo, the head of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Department of INEC in Akwa Ibom State told the tribunal that his responsibility during the governorship election included oversight on the Card Reader.

Nwankwo told the Justice Umar-led panel that the Card Reader malfunctioned in most of the polling units in the state. On the challenges of the Card Reader, he stated that there were three problems that affected the use of the Card Reader. Firstly, he stated that the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) has internal micro chips where particulars of voters are stored and also has an antenna that communicates with the Card Reader.

According to him, if the PVC is manhandled it affects the Card Reader and that will make it not readable. Secondly, he stated that human error equally affected the Card Reader.

The witness added that the Assistant Presiding Officers (APO) whose duty it was to handle the Card Readers were not skilled because they were trained for just one day. He added that the Card Reader itself may not function if there is no Internet.

After two other witnesses, Alex Ejesieme, told the tribunal that the person he intended to call as their fifth witness “suddenly developed health problems.”

Link to original article below:
Umana Optimistic Of Victory As Tribunal Resumes Thursday