by Inibehe Effiong
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday September 7, 2015 opened its defence as the second Respondent at the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Tribunal in Abuja on very bad point as her witnesses practically confirmed the earlier evidence of the Petitioners that there was no election in Akwa Ibom State.
The first witness for the PDP who was the Defence Witness 20 (DW20) as the first Respondent, governor Udom Emmanuel, had earlier called 19 witnesses, a former chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and the PDP chapter collation agent for the April 11, 2015 governorship election, Barr Chris Okorie made a fool of himself when he denied ever knowing that Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem, a serving commissioner in the state was the PDP State Collation Officer.
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 Mr. Enoidem from the Etim Ekpo Local Government Collation Center to the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where the governorship results were collated and declared and another where he deposed on oath on behalf of PDP of which he was cross examined as a witness.
Testifying during cross examination, Okorie said election held in the area and that he served as the Ward agent for Etim Ekpo Ward 7 as well as the Local Government Collation Officer. Asked why he did not state in his witness deposition that he also doubled as a Ward collation agent, he told the tribunal it escaped his memory.
His trouble worsened when counsel to the petitioner, Solomon Umoh (SAN), asked him if he knew Enoidem was the state collation officer of the PDP, he denied knowledge of such. He was thus confronted with his witness statement on oath as a witness to the 1st Respondent in which he swore that he accompanied Enoidem with the Local Government results from Etim Ekpo to Uyo. He denied ever making such deposition before the tribunal.
Asked if he will be surprised that INEC could not tender before the Tribunal the voters register of his polling unit (004) where he allegedly voted because the register in addition to other sensitive materials were all hijacked he said he wasn’t aware of such. He was given Exhibit DDD6 being the local government result for the area to take a look and confirm the figures between the total number of voters accredited and total votes cast. His hands were trembling as he held the document. While total accredited voters stood at 45, 922, total votes cast were two, the first 45, 465 which was mutilated and a second figure of 45, 965 written. He was also confronted with the issue of the purported APC agent, Isreal Sunday who allegedly signed the local government result as being a creation of his own. He denied. He was finally allowed to leave the witness box at about 4.20pm.
The Tribunal was temporarily disrupted over the testimony given by a lecturer working in the Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU) who was called as the Defence Witness 21 (DW 21) by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in their ongoing defence at the Tribunal.
The lecturer, one Dr. Anthony Efiok Usoro, from Ikot Akpaedok Ndiya, in Ikono Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State during examination in chief by the counsel to the PDP, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, SAN adopted his earlier statement on oath dated 27th May, 2015 and tendered his Permanent Voters Card (PVC) which was admitted in evidence without objection from any of the parties and marked as Exhibit 368. He stated that he had voted during the elections in his polling unit, Lutheran School Ikot Akpaedok Unit 11. While being led in evidence by Mr. Paul Usoro, the Counsel to governor Udom Emmanuel, he further stated that he served as the Local Government Collation Agent for the PDP in Ikono LGA and that there are 11 Wards in the local government. He denied the evidence earlier given by one Embassy Akpan Essien, the Petitioners Witness (PW 41), that there was no election in the local government.
However, during cross examination by the counsel to the Petitioners, Mr. Solomon Umoh, SAN, the witness who had appeared very confident suddenly lost his confidence and gave what many in the Tribunal described as a ridiculous explanation for the alterations of figures on the results sheets (Forms EC8B) for the 11 Wards in Ikono Local Government Area.
Mr. Umoh, SAN showed the witness Exhibits 001 to 11 and asked him to confirm if those were the results for the 11 Wards in the local government and he said yes. He also admitted that only the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) signed the purported result for the local government area (Form EC8C). The witness was given Exhibit 261 (the Register of Voters) and asked to show where his name was ticked to the left beside his photo to show that he voted during the governorship election but he refused. “I put it to you that your name was not ticked because you did not vote”? Mr. Umoh, SAN asked but he kept mute.
The contradictory evidence reached its climax when he was asked whether it is true as evidenced in Exhibit DD 001 to 11 (the purported Results for the 11 Wards in Ikono LGA) which had been given to him that there is mutilation and alteration of figures in the result sheets for the 11 Wards in the local government area, the university lecturer answered thus: “My Lord, what I see here are READABLE CORRECTION OF COMPUTATIONAL ERRORS”. This answer inflamed the Tribunal as everyone, including lawyers to the PDP and Udom Emmanuel, laughed endlessly as people kept repeating the statement. When calm was eventually restored, Mr. Umoh, SAN obviously not persuaded by what some described as a story for the gods asked him why the “readable correction of computational errors” occurred in all the 11 Wards but he could not say anything.
The third witness for the day was Bishop Andrew Unwanta, the PDP local government collation officer for Etinan. At this point, Awomolo, SAN took leave of court to plead with Solomon Umoh, SAN whom he said was too hot at his cross examination. “Do my prophet no harm. He is a Bishop”, he pleaded. There was laughter in court. Then came moment for cross examination and he told the tribunal that one Ibanga Enoh on his orders, signed the results for Etinan Urban Ward 5 and Southern Iman Ward 3 because the Ward agents could not make it to the Local Government Collation Center since it was late in the night. The Ward results were collated and computed at INEC office in the Local Government, he confessed.
He then was shown exibit DDD 1-11 being the results from the eleven wards which was used in computing the overall local government result entered into Form EC8C but signed only by him and INEC. He confessed it was true. “Very, very correct My Lord”, he told the tribunal. He also submitted that his name was also not ticked as having being accredited on the voters register. His name, number 1248 on the voter register was not ticked as to show that he voted. He told the tribunal that he is only seeing the voters register of his unit for the first time in court. He denied knowing his party’s State Collation Officer but confessed not including in his witness statement on oath that he was also a Ward Collation Officer for the PDP.
Also on the witness box was Justus Ntuk, the PDP Local Government Collation Officer for Ikot Abasi who said election held in the area but only him and INEC signed the Form EC8C being the Local Government result in the presence of security agents.
No PDP agent or that of any other party signed any of the results for the 11 Wards in the area. The voters register of his unit, Exibit 289D where he claimed he voted had no proof of accreditation of any voter in the area. He told the Tribunal that he is only seeing the voters register for the first time in court.
The case was adjourned to Wednesday September 9, 2015 for continuation of hearing.