The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Udo Emmanuel, have said that they have nothing to hide in the ongoing inspection of electoral materials that were used in the April11 governorship poll in the state.
Counsel to the first defendant, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and counsel to the governor, Paul Usoro (SAN) stated this at the resumed sitting of the tribunal on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
They said that they were not against the four additional days granted the petitioners for the inspection of the poll materials, since they had nothing to hide.
The tribunal had on last Wednesday granted the All Progressives Congress (APC) application for extension of time to inspect electoral materials that were used in the April 11 governorship election for the state.
It would be recalled that Governor Emmanuel Udoh had won the election on a landslide victory by defeating his closest opponent, Mr. Umanah Umanah of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election and had been declared winner of the Aprill 11 poll by The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Counsel to the PDP, Oyetibo told the tribunal that PDP was not against the four additional days granted the petitioners for the inspection of the poll materials, saying the PDP had nothing to hide.
Similarly, Usoro aligned with him on the issue, which resulted in the tribunal granting the four days inspection extension.
“We are no opposed to the granting of four additional days to the petitioners to inspect the election materials, because we have nothing to hide,” Oyetibo said.
Solomon Umoh (SAN) who led the APC legal team said they were happy with the tribunal’s approval of their request. The tribunal had at two separate occasions granted the APC’s request to inspect the election materials.
Usoro and Oyetibo had earlier separately raised objections to the statements on oath made by all the APC witnesses on the ground that their real names were not on the statements but initials and acronyms.
Oyetibo specifically had objected to the calling of any witness to adopt statement in oath because according to him there was no nexus between the statement and the witnesses.
He submitted that the mere use of the initials or acronym should not be allowed by the tribunal to confer the originator on the witnesses since their real names were not printed on the statements.
The counsel also argued that his client will be denied fair hearing, if ghost witnesses whose names are not on the statements on oath were allowed to testify before the tribunal against his client.
The tribunal rejected the second objection raised against the witnesses of the APC governorship candidate chief Umana Okon Umana by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), another counsel to Governor Udom, requesting that the witnesses be disallowed from testifying at the tribunal and their statements made on oath be rejected because the statements did not carry names or identities of the Authors.
In the arguments that ensued, counsel to the All Progressive Congress candidate, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had asked the tribunal to reject the objection of the governor on the ground that same had been raised and a comprehensive ruling delivered by the tribunal to settle the matter.
Olanipekun who was supported by chief Godwin Obla (SAN) and Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) for the petitioner maintained that it would amount to abuse of court process for the tribunal to allow a settled matter to be revived on the same issue from the same subject.
The tribunal had held that the Practice Direction formulated by the Court of Appeal, and guiding the procedures of the election petition tribunals clearly allowed the used of initials or acronym in place of the names of the witnesses so as to protect the witnesses from intimidation and harassment by the opposition party in view of the volatility nature of politics in the country.
In a short ruling chairman of the tribunal Justice Sadiq Umar upheld the argument of Olanipekun and rejected the move of the Governor and PDP to disqualify the APC witnesses and their statements on oath.
Justice Umar said it was wrong of the governor’s counsel to have raised their objections in piece meal adding that since the objection had been raised and a comprehensive ruling was delivered by the same tribunal, the issue remains resolved since no new issues were raised by the defense team.
At last Wednesday and Thursday’s resumed hearing, seven witnesses among who were Dr. Asuquo Awana, a legal practitioner, Christopher Itiak of Democratic Peoples Party, Otong Monday Akpan and Dr. Ita Udosem of the APC all testified for the petitioner to the effect that there was no governorship election in the state.
However, during cross-examination, virtually all the APC witnesses appeared to have made unsubstantiated testimonies as they all admitted that they were not at the 2,980 polling units in the state but they based their conclusion on the report of their accredited agents.
The witnesses also admitted that they were not at the scene of the violence, but were briefed on phone calls and written report by the agent.
Meanwhile, the Tribunal sitting continues.