The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is the 2nd Respondent at the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Tribunal, on Monday, September 14, 2015 closed its defense abruptly after failing to call more witnesses at two previous sittings of the Tribunal.
When the case came up on Monday the legal counsel to the PDP, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, informed the Tribunal that a representative of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Akwa Ibom State was in court. The representative, Mr. Obinna Ayogu, had failed to provide the tribunal with a missing bag of INEC incident forms.
Mr. Obinna Agogu told the Tribunal that he later realized that the one remaining bag was for Nsit Ubium Local Government Area (LGA) of Akwa Ibom State, and not for Ini LGA as he had earlier said on the September 10th, 2015. At this point, the counsel to the PDP Tayo Oyetibo, informed the Tribunal that they have closed their defense.
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, has called only 4 has abandoned the remaining 19.
However, a lawyer for one of the parties who spoke in confidence with a SaharaReporters correspondent said that the forms have no relevance to the case at hand. "The Respondents may have realized 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, informed the Tribunal that the Commission will not be able to open their defense 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, 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 was expected that INEC open their defense today since all the Respondents are working together. This suggests that that the counsel to INEC should have known that the PDP will not present more witnesses.
Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, 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. 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 defense.