The Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed an application by the Governor, Udom Emmanuel and PDP, that all the APC witnesses be disqualified from testifying against him on the ground that they used initials in place of their names in their statements on oath.
The petitioner, APC’s Chief Umana Umana, had petitioned the election of PDP’s Emmanuel Udoh as governor, on account of election irregularities and malpractices and prayed the tribunal to annul the election and order a fresh one.
The statements on oath are billed to be used by Umana in his case challenging Emmanuel’s election on April 11.
Delivering ruling on the application, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Sadiq Umar, held that the request was strange and could not be supported by any law.
Umar agreed with the submission of Umana’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that the witnesses had the right under the law to use their initials or acronym on their statements on oath.
Umar further held that the Practice Direction formulated by the Court of Appeal, and guiding the procedures of the election petition tribunals, clearly allowed the use of initials or acronyms in place of the names of the witnesses.
Umar also held that witnesses in an election petition can use initials or acronym to safeguard themselves from being attacked, molested or intimidated by the opposing party in an election petition.
This, he said, was to protect the witnesses from intimidation and harassment by the opposition party in view of the volatile nature of politics in the country.
Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), the governor’s counsel, and Mr Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), PDP’s counsel, had in their submissions, separately raised objections to the statements on oath made by all the APC witnesses.
They had argued that the witnesses’ real names were not on the statements but initials and acronyms.
Oyetibo specifically objected to the calling of any witness to adopt statement on 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.
He also argued that his client would be denied fair hearing, if “ghost witnesses’’ whose names were not on the statements on oath were allowed to testify before the tribunal against his client.
The tribunal chairman further ordered INEC to comply with the earlier order of the tribunal to allow the inspection of the ballot papers by APC and other materials used for the election.