by Inibehe Effiong
More can of worms of how Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state was rigged to power continued on Friday September 4, 2015 on the third day of defence by the 1st Respondent before the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja. Paul Usoro (SAN), lead counsel to Udom Emmanuel, had before the commencement of Friday’ssitting told the tribunal he intends to call eight witnesses for the day but was only able to call three.
The 10th Defence Witness (DW10), Mr. Bassey Okon Willie of Esin Ufot village in Oron Local Government Area and private legal practitioner who was the first witness to be called by Counsel to Governor Udom Emmanuel admitted that one person signed the result sheets (Form EC8 C) for seven Wards in Oron Local Government Area.
Testifying before the Tribunal, a PDP witness, Barr. Bassey Okon Willie, on Friday told the tribunal that one PDP Ward collation agent for Oron LGA signed all the Ward result sheets because other Ward collation agents could not make it to the Local Government Collation Centre due to faulty engine boats they were all travelling with which developed fault on the high sea on their way back from the election, forcing all Ward collation agents to resort to manual paddling of their boats. Majority of polling units are within the riverine areas, he submitted.
Though he admitted being the Local Government Collation Agent, he accepted actually signing the result sheet for Ward 4 even though the said Elder Effiong Atanang was the PDP Ward 4 collation agent. His testimony contradicts the witness disposition of Elder Effiong Atanang before the tribunal that he signed the Ward 4 election result as the Ward agent of the PDP.
Apparently embarrassed by this fraud and contradictory depositions by the Respondents witnesses, Mr. Paul Usoro refused to call the said Elder Effiong Atanang who had earlier been listed as a witness to testify to avoid him being confronted with the fraud. However, legal sources say this tactics will not really help the Respondents because the fraud is evident on the face of the result sheets which had been admitted into evidence by the Tribuna.
Barr. Willie during cross examination told the tribunal that election result can be collated outside the Ward collation centres as was the case in Oron even though it was against INEC’s regulations. For instance, he said lightening and security inconvenience made it impossible for election results to be carried out at designated collation centres which led to collation being done elsewhere with the support of security agents and INEC officials. Even as a Local Government collation officer, he said he was not aware that election results were supposed to be entered into forms EC8A, EC8B and EC8C.
He was however advised by Dayo Akinlaja, SAN, counsel to the petitioner to read the INEC manual for the election as it will do him a lot of good not just as a party agent but also as a lawyer.
He said due to the late arrival of Ward agents arising from their faulty engine boats, only the PDP Ward 7 agent was left during the collation which necessitated his signing all the Ward results. This attracted laughter from the gallery in the Tribunal.
However, there was argument on whether the petitioner’s counsel can rely on the deposition of the said Elder Effiong Atanang, while Mr. Paul Usoro argued that the Petitioners’ counsel cannot rely on it because the deposition had not been adopted as such it was not before the Tribunal, Mr. Akinlaja citing several authorities replied that the court can look at documents in the file for the purpose of doing justice. The 1st Respondent’s counsel objection was upheld, but the Tribunal said that it can still decide to look at it in the interest of justice.
Testifying before the Tribunal, the second witness for the day who is a former State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, Prince Uwem Ita Etuk, who testified as the Defence Witness 11 (DW11) stunned the Tribunal when he dared Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN), Counsel to Obong Umana Okon Umana and the APC, the petitioners, threatening that he will give him (Dayo) what he wants.
His threat came as Mr. Akinlaja asked him to repeat a self-indicting statement he made while being led in evidence by Counsel to the PDP, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, SAN.
Mr. Etuk who commenced his testimony in what some members of the Tribunal gallery described as over confidence had boasted during his testimony that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had no base and support in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area where he hails from. He went further to say that the PDP won in his polling unit which he said was unit 003 Market Square, Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo, overwhelmingly while the APC only only struggled to have only about two votes which was why INEC did not border to count the votes scored by the APC.
At this point, Mr. Akinlaja, SAN stood up and asked Mr. Etuk to repeat to the Tribunal that the votes “scored” by the APC was not counted to allow the Judges take proper note of his admission. Miffed by the the response of Mr. Akinlaja which suggested that indeed there was no credible election in his polling unit, Mr. Etuk flared up.
His action, a reminiscence of the thuggery that characterized the election especially in Ibesikpo LGA, stunned the tribunal. He said if anyone says no election took place in the area, then INEC should be told to answer for it. Counsel to INEC, Obinna Onyia, declined cross examining the witness.
Again under cross examination Mr. Akinlaja, Prince Etuk who had boasted earlier in his testimony that the APC and her governorship candidate, Umana Umana, has no root in his local government was asked if he has a step mother by name Mrs. Geraldine Etuk, he flared up again. At that point, counsel to Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN again stood up and cautioned him against his antagonistic disposition towards the Petitioners counsel.
When he was asked whether he is aware that his own step mother is the Women Leader of the APC in his local government he admitted that she is not a member of the PDP but that he doesn’t know if she is the APC Women Leader. The court gallery was thrown into laughter over the denial.
Asked if it is proper in a normal election for the number of votes cast to be higher than the number of accredited voters, he kept quiet but upon insistence by Mr. Akinlaja that he should answer his question, he said he has no knowledge of it as he was only a voter. His evasive answer and claim of ignorance of such elementary matter invoked laughter in Court.
Also testifying, the DW 12, Mr Jude Edet from Nung Ette in Ibesikpo, the collation agent for Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area said it was wrong for the 5th Petitioners’ witness (PW5), Dr. Ita Udosen and the PW 35, former Governor Victor Attah, to have testified that there was no election in the area but however admitted that Attah remains his mentor. He denied knowing the names of other PDP Ward agents in the area even though he was the local government collation agent. He also denied knowing any Form called Form EC8B but accepted he knew about Form EC8C. He admitted that it was wrong for total number of votes cast to be higher than the total number of accredited voters saying if that was what transpired then the election was a fraud. “Ghost can’t vote”, he submitted. His response rattled his legal team, forcing some PDP chieftains who were in the tribunal to leave the courtroom.
At this point, Paul Usoro intervened to salvage the situation, requesting the tribunal to adjourn for the day. “My Lord, we’ve had enough from this witnesses for today”, he pleaded. The tribunal adjourned to Monday, September 7, 2015 tor continuation of hearing.