*Petitioner’s lawyer fumbles against Udom’s witnesses*
Chief Wole Olanipekun-led Umana Umana’s legal team left the FCT High Court of Justice, venue of
the Akwa Ibom 2015 Governorship Election Tribunal, unhappy as the Presiding Judge, Justice Sadiq Umar played down on the team’s request to recount 90 bags of ballot papers earlier presented as exhibit 345 to the tribunal.
Umana’s lead Counsel had pleaded that the ballot papers totalling over 1.2 million which were packed into 9 ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags (big size) be recounted so as to be sure that the number of ballot papers in the bag corresponds with the total number of votes counted by INEC in the April 11 gubernatorial election.
The lead counsel of Governor Udom Emmanuel, Paul Usoro (SAN), argued that although his client had nothing to lose in the verification of the ballot papers, it would only amount to another rigorous process of recounting that may take more valued time of the tribunal.
Responding, the tribunal judge Umar told Chief Olanipekun that any attempt to recount the over one million ballot papers may affect the time frame of the tribunal, especially, as the court has less than a month to decide on the case.
While stressing that the number of his secretariat staff is too low for such task of recounting the ballot papers, Justice Umar said “I am looking at the time left for the tribunal. I have about three secretariat staff, therefore, if I ask them to start recounting the over 1.2 million ballot papers now, it may take up to ten days and that is not favourable.”
The Judge, however, stated thus: “If need be, we will ask our staff to liaise with INEC to sort it out.”
Meanwhile, it was a show of shame as two witnesses of the Peoples Democratic Party faulted a learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Wole Olanipekun – the lead Counsel to Umana Umana.
The SAN had failed to gather his fact correctly and consequently fumbled before the tribunal judge while cross-examining one Imo Asuquo Okon and the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Transport, Godwin Ntukude – all Governor Udom’s witnesses.
While cross examining Imo Okon, Umana’s Counsel mixed up names of the polling agents in some units in Ikot Oku Ikono. The witness while cross-checking data on form EC8D given to him by the examiner faulted that one of the names on the form is Joseph Peter Okon and not Dr. Joseph Peter as claimed by the SAN.
Similarly, Ntukude, in his part, spent at least five minutes to educate the SAN on some information wrongly gathered by Umana’s lawyers.
First, Ntukude argued with the SAN that he was not the Commissioner for Works/Transport as claimed by the SAN but Commissioner for Transport.
Secondly, the Commissioner argued that there is nothing like Akwa Ibom Transport Corporation in the State but Akwa Ibom Transport Company and further educated the learned SAN that the firm was not under his ministry as at the time of the election as it has since been privatized.
This was at variance with the claims that the bus company was owned and managed by the State government, and that they were usually packed at the government house, even when the transport firm has its loading bay and temporary operational base at Itam which is not even in Uyo the state capital.
The transport boss also made it clear to Olanipekun that it was not his duty to go round his local government area to monitor the elections as he was a voter and not an election monitor.
The senior Advocate had asked him, “I trust that as a law abiding senior citizen, you had gone round your local government area to make sure elections was peaceful and credible?” To which Ntukude replied that as a law abiding citizen of Akwa Ibom State, his active election duty began and ended at his polling unit at Unit 009, of Ward 1 in Uruan LGA.
Even the attempt to water his claim that he was a duly registered voter in his unit, went blank when the former Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio President, promptly showed the petitioner his photograph on the INEC accredited register.
The smile on the faces of the PDP chieftains at the court room led by Obong Paul Ekpo the state chairman, further confirmed the woes of the opposition APC led by Mr Ben Ukpong the deputy governorship candidate who was recently embroiled in a resignation scandal.
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