Drama of absurdity continued at the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Tribunal in Abuja as an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission testified in the petition by the APC candidate, Umana Okon Umana, against the election of Governor Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party on 11 April.
Mr. Dominic Okenna was the electoral officer for Onna LG in the state during the election and he was witness 26.
Umana’s lawyer, Mr. Solomon Umoh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, reserved his killer punch to the last as he cross examined Okenna.
Umoh asked the witness to read the total number of accredited voters for the state as recorded in exhibit 317.
After some hesitation, Okenna read it as 437,128. Umoh then gave him exhibit EE4, which represents the total votes declared for the state to read it out. Okenna, his voice betraying a hesitation, said that what he saw there is 1,158,624.
Umoh had overcome an objection by INEC to ask Okenna on the state of the ballot papers which were allegedly used during the April 11, 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State.
Umoh asked him whether he had kept the ballot papers for Onna safely and securely after the election as prescribed in exhibit 338 paragraph 1.1.2, which is the Manual for Election Officials, and he said yes.
Mr. Umoh then asked him to identify the ballot papers used for Onna local government from among the rest since the ballot papers used for the entire state was in court.
Counsel to INEC Mr. Alex Ejesieme objected to the question. He contended that the Petitioners did not plead the state of the ballot papers in their petition and that by the Practice Direction, it was wrong for the Petitioners to seek to cross examine the witness on the issue as that will amount to taking the Respondents by surprise. He further contended that if the Petitioners wanted the witness to produce the ballot papers in court they should have served him with a notice to produce same.
In their contributions, counsel to the 1st and 2nd Respondents, Messrs Paul Usoro, SAN and Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, governor Udom Emmanuel and the Peoples Democratic Party, respectively, said they had no objection to the question on the state of the ballot papers and declined to support INEC’s objection.
Responding, Mr. Umoh referred the Tribunal to paragraphs 15, 22, 27, 37 and 51 of the Petition and submitted that the issue was sufficiently pleaded and that the objection should be overruled by the Tribunal. The Tribunal asked the counsel to INEC to read the paragraphs of the petition referred to by the Petitioners counsel which he did. In its ruling, the Tribunal held that the issue had been pleaded by the Petitioners and overruled the objection.
Continuing with his cross examination, Umoh asked the INEC witness whether he has seen the inscription on exhibit 345 (1), a bag containing ballot papers, which reads Onna Local Government Area and he answered that he has seen it. He then asked him to bring out the ballot papers for Awa Ward 1 in Onna. The witness confessed that the ballot papers were mixed up and could not identify the ballot papers. This obviously contradicted his earlier testimony that he had safely secured the ballot papers unit by unit and ward by ward as stipulated in the INEC Manual for Election Officials.
Umoh also asked him to look at exhibit 317 (2) which was the extra one bag of ballot papers brought out from the Tribunal’s Registry and asked him to identify which local government they were used for. The witness took out a sample of ballot paper from the bag and looked at it for a long time but could not say the local government it was used for during the election.
It was also drama galore at the Akwa Ibom National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal hearing the case against the election of Senator Godswill Akpabio, by the APC candidate, Chief Inebehe Okori.
Mr. Stanley Annah from Ikot Ekpene, who was one of the witnesses for Akpabio, claimed that he could not see and as such could not read the card reader report which gives the total number of accredited voters for the council. Another witness on Tuesday, had feigned temporary blindness, because he didn’t bring his glasses to court.
Mr Annah who told the tribunal that elections held in all the polling units of the council suddenly turned blind and mute when told to read out the total number of accredited voters based on the card reader for Ikot Ekpene on exhibit P19.
“I can’t see anything, I can’t read”, he said. Asked if truly he is a graduate of agriculture as he claimed, he said yes but still can’t read the figures in the document. He also claimed he has no idea of the number of polling units in Ikot Ekpene.
Following pressure, he read out 22,761 as the total number of accredited voters for Ikot Ekpene.
Before leaving the witness box, counsel to the 1st Respondent, Offiong Offiong SAN, asked the court to protect witnesses from vigorous cross examination from the petitioners counsel, Chief Assam Assam SAN.
Responding the tribunal chairman said while the court cannot force a witness to answer a question ,they are legally bound to answer questions posed to them at cross examination, while the tribunal will take note of witnesses who claim in their statement on oath that they are graduates but pretend they can’t read when inside the witness box.
Also testifying, Uyoata Essien from Etim Ekpo said elections held in his area in a free and fair manner.
When he was confronted with the card reader report of his unit which gave 485 voters for the polling unit at Nkwot Ikot Eboh as against 772 votes declared, he said he could not confirm if actually the 772 declared as total number of accredited voters was true or not. Essien as the PDP agent had signed the bloated result.
Another witness, Obonoh Friday Frank from Oruk Anam said elections were free and fair. He was then shown the card reader accreditation to state the number of accredited voters in his unit. The card reader showed that successful accreditation was 147 while failed accreditation was 53 but a final result of 400 was declared with PDP scoring 398.
The last witness for the day was Francis Idungafa , a former PDP chairman from Ika. He admitted that in his polling unit, Primary School Nto Udo Enwan had the result mutilated and inflated.
He told the tribunal that total number of accredited voters was cancelled from 530 to 650 while total valid votes cast was also cancelled and inflated from 402 to 648 even though the card reader report proved that the unit had 155 successful accreditation and 137 failed accreditation, totaling 292 accredited voters.