by Inibehe Effiong
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is the 2nd Respondent at the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal on Monday, September 14, 2015 closed its defence abruptly after failing to call more witnesses at two previous sittings of the Tribunal.
When the case came up on Monday, the lawyer to the PDP, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, SAN informed the Tribunal that a representative of the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State by name Obinna Ayogu, who had failed last Friday to produce one remaining bag of Incident Forms allegedly used during the election was in court.
Mr. Obinna Agogu told the Tribunal that he later realised that the one remaining bag was for Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and not for Ini LGA as he had earlier said on the 10th September, 2015. At this point, the counsel to the PDP Tayo Oyetibo, SAN informed the Tribunal that they have closed their defence.
A member of the three man panel of judges hearing the petition reminded Mr. Oyetibo that the Incident forms which the representative of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) brought to the Tribunal following the subpoena the PDP caused to be issued on the Akwa Ibom REC was not before the Tribunal because same has neither been tendered nor admitted. Mr. Oyetibo agreed that the Incident Forms has not been admitted in evidence. He submitted that they will decide on what to do with the Incident Forms subsequently. It is however not clear why the party refused to tender the said Incident Forms. With this development, the PDP which had listed 23 persons as witnesses and called only 4 has abandoned the remaining 19.
However, a lawyer for one of the parties who spoke in confidence said that the forms have no relevance to the case at hand. “The Respondents may have realised that the Incident Forms will not fly or assist their case in anyway. That is why they have refused to tender same in evidence before the Tribunal and the implication is that the forms are worthless, but even if same were to be admitted, it will still not do any magic because non of the witnesses called by them presented any of the forms as his own. In any case, the INEC guidelines had clearly prohibited manual accreditation”. The lawyer stated.
On his part, Counsel to INEC, Mr. Tobechukwu Nweke, Esq. informed the Tribunal that the Commission will not be able to open their defence until Tuesday when the Electoral Officers (EOs) that they intend to call as witnesses are available. He stated that the EOs are on their way to Abuja. He then applied that the case be adjourned to Tuesday.
Responding, Mr. Solomon Umoh, SAN, counsel to the Petitioners, Mr. Umana Okon Umana and the All Progressives Congress (APC), said that although he was not opposing the application for adjournment, it had expected INEC to open their defence today since all the Respondents are working together which implies that the counsel to INEC ought to have known before hand that the PDP will not present more witnesses.
Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, SAN a member of the Petitioners team who later addressed the media said it was interesting that the 2nd Respondents were only able to present just 4 witnesses in addition to the 19 witnesses earlier called by the 1st Respondents. This according to him means that the two Respondents have only called 23 witnesses in all as opposed to the 52 witnesses called by the Petitioners. He expressed confidence that the truth about what took place in Akwa Ibom State on April 11, 2015 will prevail and that justice will be done at the end of the day.
The case has been adjourned to Tuesday 15th September, 2015 for continuation of defence.