EKERE VS UDOM: Udom In A Fix, Declines Cross Examination Of Witness

Proceedings at A’Ibom Election Petition Tribunal continued on Thursday,18th July’19 as adjourned the previous day. Case mentioned for hearing and presence of Parties acknowledged by Tribunal Chairman, Justice A. M Yakubu. Counsel to parties announced their appearance with Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) leading Petitioners legal team. Chief Assam Assam (SAN) and others for 1st Respondent. Oku Udom (SAN) and others for 2nd Respondent and Silva Oguemoh (SAN) and others for 3rd Respondent.

Counsel to Petitioner Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) called further witnesses bringing to 40 the number of witnesses that have so far testified for the petitioner. The witnesses who took turns to give account of what transpired in their respective polling units and wards during the election were identified by the Tribunal record as PW32 – PW40 and were drawn from the following local government areas; Nsit Atai, Mkpat Enin, Ukanfun, Mbo, Ini, Ikono, Oron, Ibesikpo/Asutan and Eket.

Interestingly, testimonies of witnesses given at the Tribunal sitting were not evidently different from testimonies given by witnesses earlier called by the petitioner who revealed that there was no election (properly speaking) following noticeable discrepancies in INEC’s conduct of the 2019 governorship election. Besides rendering account of how PDP colluded with INEC officials to rig the election, witnesses were specific and detail to call out names of prominent members of PDP and officials of government who were behind the monumental fraud that attended the governorship election.

PW34 who was APC ward collation Agent in Ukanfun LGA informed the Tribunal at cross examination that of the 12 polling units in his ward, INEC delivered election materials to only 7 units and diverted the rest to an unknown destination on the orders and direction of a former State Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Hon. Enobong Akpan together with one Otobong Jonathan. The duo, he said later orchestrated armed thugs, wearing mask on their faces who invaded other polling units and carted away materials alongside INEC ad-hoc staff. He told the Tribunal that the success of their operation was no doubt due to the collaboration of INEC officials who rather than resist/protest encouraged the nefarious activities of the PDP.

Similarly, PW32 who was APC collation Agent in Nsit Atai LGA narrated to the astonishment of the Tribunal that of the 8 polling units in his ward, election materials were delivered to only 4 units by INEC and the rest diverted to an unknown destination. He told the Tribunal that polling units 3,4,7 and 8 where election materials were delivered recorded heavy casualties following assault on APC members by PDP thugs. The seriously wounded, he told the Tribunal were taken to the hospital by the Police. Short of publicly mentioning the name, he told the Tribunal “My Lord, I know the person who led the thugs to commit the havoc”.

PW37 who testified for the petitioner was APC ward collation Agent in Ikono LGA. When cross examined by Respondent counsel, PW37 said he was not aware of official INEC results from either his polling unit, ward of local government because there was no sorting, counting and collation of votes in his unit and ward as prescribed by INEC. He said, My Lord, “election materials were carted away by PDP thugs led by one Samuel Akpan Ekpenyong who hijacked election materials and took the ballot papers away, tump printed them and returned same under Police escort”.

PW40 was APC ward collation Agent in Eket urban ward 3 of Eket LGA. He told the Tribunal at cross examination that there was no accreditation of voters in his polling unit. He told the Tribunal that a PDP stalwart by name Samuel Nwa Etok and his accomplices publicly held out bundles of Niara notes which they paid out 4000 -5000 to each voter as inducements compelling them vote in favour of PDP. My Lord, because of the monetary inducement offered by the PDP, there were incidence of impersonation and large scale multiple voting facilitated by INEC ad-hoc staff who were obviously part of the plot to rig the election by vote buying.

PW35, 36, 38 and 39 all affirmed that no elections (strictu sensu) strictly speaking was conducted by INEC in their respective polling units and wards. Election materials were either hijacked and carted away using armed thugs thereby hindering and truncating the process. Where there was a semblance of an election, votes were not counted and announced at polling units neither were results collated at ward collation centres. Petitioners witnesses were in greement as they all stated in one voice that INEC staff colluded with PDP to rig the election leaving Respondents counsel hapless and helpless in their interrogation and attempt to probe deeper in order to discredit their testimony.

A glaring case that left Respondents counsel destitute was the invitation to the witness box of PW33; a fine gentleman about 50 years who hails from Mkpat Enin LGA exuded knowledge and confidence even as he was cautioned and put on oath. Looking quite alert and prepared for cross examination as expected by Respondents counsel, all 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents declined cross examination of the witness-PW33. It was a puzzle for observers at the gallery why Respondents should decline to cross examine PW33. Petitioners counsel for now can only conjecture why Respondents would not cross examine PW33 until the time is ripe. But for on lookers, it is a puzzle that Respondents who throw bat often in combatant mode at Petitioners’ witnesses would let go an opportunity to not only discredit PW33’s witness statement but also to puncture the substance of the petition. Time alone will unveil the puzzle.

As always, the Tribunal adjourned on a congenial note to Friday, 19th July 2019.

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