The National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Saturday, adjourned till August 8, 2019 for adoption of written address in the petition filed by Senator Godswill Akpabio challenging the declaration of Chris Ekpenyong as winner of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) closed its case.
Counsel to INEC, Ifeoluwa Ojediran had told the tribunal that INEC submitted documents containing names of INEC ad hoc members of staff, returning officers and collation officers in Essien Udim Local Council, which were admitted and marked as Exhibits R603 and R603A.
He said on the election umpire will not be producing additional witnesses outside the ones presented by the first and second respondents (Ekpenyong and the People’s Democratic Party) in the petition, adding: “We will rely on evidences already presented by witnesses, which are in line with INEC guidelines.
“We would not bother this tribunal with further witnesses.”
Among the list of witnesses for the first and second respondents are INEC presiding officers, supervisory presiding officers and a returning officer, who had earlier testified.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice A. Akanbi, in his response, appreciated INEC’s counsel and other counsel for their cooperation, and announced August 1st and 6th for filing of written address by respondents and petitioners respectively.
However, counsel to Senator Ekpenyong and PDP, Uche Njoku and Solomon Umoh, SAN, prayed for extension of time, noting that five days are too short for filing of written address by respondents.
Umoh particularly stressed that he had cooperated with the tribunal to limit his number of witnesses to close his case earlier.
Umoh said, “My lords, I respectfully pray that we should file on Friday, instead of Thursday.
“Giving us five days would rather be unfair to us to file our written address.
“We have other petitions we are handling, too. My lords would bear witness that I even limited my number of witnesses to close my case early.”
Ojediran opined that, according to the pre-hearing report, the tribunal had agreed to give seven days to respondents and five days to petitioners for filing of written address.
The tribunal thereafter fixed August 8 for parties to address the court and adoption of their written addresses.