Senator Godswill Akpabio, immediate past representative of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district in the National Assembly, today, June 10, 2019, watched aghast as one of his witnesses, Mr. Usen, admitted that there was no accreditation in polling units in the ward where he was a collation agent.
Akpabio, who surfaced Monday, for the first time since the National Assembly Petition Tribunal began sitting, was opportune to be briefed through the prehearing report of the tribunal, which marked the end of the prehearing session and commencement of trial.
Mr. Usen, one of the witnesses who identified himself as APC chieftain and 2019 elections ward collating officer in Essien Udim Local Government Area, affirmed that the box designed for accreditation of voters was not ticked on result sheets shown to him by INEC, which means there was no accreditation in seven polling units, leading to cancellation of elections in those units.
On further prompting the witness responded that voters’ registers and card readers are tools for accreditation, and explained that where the card reader fails, accreditation are usually done manually.
The witness who was up to testify that INEC was not justified in cancelling the results from the units, also told the tribunal that card readers malfunctioned in various polling units in his area.
Taking the floor, Barr. Emukporueo, representing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and two other officials of the Commission joined as respondents, asked if the witness is aware that results of seven units were cancelled in his ward, but got a negative reply.
Barr. Emukporoeu craved the indulgence of the tribunal to put it to the witness, that the results which led to the cancellation of seven polling units in his ward are completely inconsistent and not a product of the voters’ registers which were marked as exhibits R2, R4, R5, R7, R8, R11.
The Counsel to the petitioner, Barr. Ameh’s made futile attempts to save his witness who was apparently running out of explanations on how the exhibit, did not indicate accreditation of voters.
Ameh argued before the tribunal that the witness is not the maker of the documents and the function of the voters’ registers are for the polling units, stressing that his witness was a ward agent.
Barr. Emukporueo urged the tribunal to overrule the objection of his colleague as the questions were reactions to the words of the witness himself, who said that card readers malfunctioned and accreditation was done manually, thus opening himself to questions concerning the voters’ registers
He referred the tribunal to section 222 of the evidence act, and held that the witness got questions within the confines of the evidence act, to test his credibility and would be unfair to INEC to be stopped from asking their questions.
He finally submitted that it is a life and critical issue to ask if there was accreditation and election, adding that there was no election because election is a process, which starts with accreditation. He also held that materials were hijacked, while ad-hoc staffs were kidnapped and abducted.
The tribunal, after listening to arguments of all the parties, ruled that the witness should answer the questions directed to him, as they are all in line with Section 295(2) of the evidence act.
The tribunal accordingly adjourned to Friday, June 14 , 2019.