The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal resumed sitting today, 8th July’19 upon adjournment last Saturday, 6th. It was presided over by the Chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu who as expected acknowledged the presence of parties. Counsels entered appearance for the parties consistent (more or less) with the pattern in previous sittings. J. S. Okutepa (SAN), Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN), Solomon Etuk (Esq.) and others for the Petitioner. Harrison Okoro on behalf of Assam Assam (SAN) who is the lead counsel appeared for 1st Respondent. Uko Udom (SAN) David Amah (Esq.) and Paul Ndoma (Esq.) appeared for 2nd Respondent while Dr. Solomon Elenyele and Prince Nwafor appeared for 3rd Respondent.
To set the day’s proceedings rolling, Petitioners counsel, J. S. Okutepa told the Tribunal he was going to continue with presentation of documents, specifically, to tender for admission by the Tribunal Certified True Copies (CTC) of forms EC8B (Collation results of the 2019 Governorship election). With leave of Tribunal, he proceeded to tender CTC of forms EC8B for 27 out of 31 local governments areas. The forms were counted publicly local government by local government as per the number of wards, tendered accordingly and marked by the Tribunal. Thereafter, Counsel proceeded to tender CTC of another set of forms, EC8C (summary of results) for 28 local governments in like manner as he tendered the previous forms. These were also marked by the Tribunal. Counsel further tendered for marking by the Tribunal CTC of the following forms; Forms EC8D (summary of results from LGs), EC8E (Declaration of result) both of which were marked accordingly. Additional documents tender by counsel for marking are; (1) CTC of INEC Guidelines for declaration of results (2) CTC of manual for election officials (2019) (3) CTC of Akwa Ibom state Directory of polling units (2019) (4) CTC of summary of PVCs collected and uncollected in all the 31 local government areas (5) CTC of Form EC40G, 19 number. All the documents were properly tendered by counsel and marked by the Tribunal.
In summary of the process of tendering the documents, Counsel thanked the Chairman for leave to do so saying he has completed tendering what he described as “Public documents”. He informed the Tribunal that other documents (where necessary) shall be tendered on oath or by those who may be subpoenaed. He alerted the Tribunal that he has 8 witnesses standing by to testify for the petitioner and was ready to proceed to call the witnesses.
There was a twist and outward expression of concern if not palpable fear on the other-side when counsel to 2nd Respondent obviously troubled by the punchy list of exhibits tendered by the petitioner drew the attention of the Tribunal to the need for the Respondents to sight the documents before examination of witnesses. The Tribunal Chairman volunteered information on how Respondent could access the documents as counsel to petitioner appeared in any form or manner disposed to avail Respondents with copies of the documents as requested.
Uko Udom (SAN) Counsel for 2nd Respondent further raised objection to what he termed the impropriety of calling witnesses by counsel to the Petitioner as the Tribunal was yet to mark the evidence so admitted. This provoked arguments on the floor by counsels. It was obvious Respondent counsels were not prepared for the testimony of witnesses sought to be called by Petitioners counsel prompting the Tribunal to agree on a middle ground for the parties. Accordingly, the Tribunal set aside 2 days (today and tomorrow 8th and 9th July) for marking the evidence and to reconvene on Wednesday, 10th. These 2 days the Chairman said shall not be counted for the petitioner. The Tribunal therefore adjourned to Wednesday, 10th July 2019 for petitioner to commence calling of witnesses.