The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Mr Udo Emmanuel, have said that they have nothing to hide in the ongoing inspection of electoral materials that were used in the April 11 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 which commenced on Wednesday and continued on Friday.
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 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.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Governor Emmanuel Udom winner of the April 11 poll.
It would be recalled that Governor 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.
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.
Mr 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 statements on oath because according to him there was no nexus between the statements 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 Umana, by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), another counsel to Governor Udom, who had requested 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 Progressives Congress candidate, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had asked the tribunal to reject the objection of the governor on the ground that same was raised previously and a comprehensive ruling was 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 use 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 volatile nature of politics in the country.
In a short ruling, the 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 was previously 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 Wednesday, Thursday and Friday’s resumed hearing, seven witnesses among who were Dr. Asuquo Awana, a legal practitioner, Christopher Itiak of Democratic Peoples Party, Otong 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 claimed by the petitioner, but were briefed on phone calls and written report by their party’s agents.
Meanwhile, as the tribunal sitting continues with more witnesses testifying, the ruling on an application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal is being expected later on Friday.