Shock and surprise were visibly written on the faces of counsels to former Akwa Ibom State Governor , Chief Godswill Akpabio as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday appeared before the Hon Justice Goddy Anunihu led Akwa Ibom State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal at the Customary Court, Dutsen Alhaji , Abuja.
The witness who was subpoenaed by the tribunal, PW7 , tendered Akpabio’s nomination forms before the tribunal. The documents were accepted by the tribunal and marked as Exibit B12, B13 and B14, amidst protest by Counsel to Akpabio , INEC and the PDP. He also led evidence in court during cross examination.
The appearance of the senior staff from the legal department of the Electoral Commission who was called into the witness box at about 2.53pm, rattled the ex governor’s legal team. Counsel to PDP, Edet Bassey was seen running out of the tribunal making frantic phone calls. The atmosphere in court was tensed. Moments later, other members of Akpabio’s legal team, Paul Usoro (SAN), Ikpeazu (SAN) and Offiong Offiong (SAN) who were not in court suddenly rushed in. Other SANs also rushed into the court and replaced other lawyers who held brief for them before the appearance of the witness.
Counsel to the 1st respondent, Awomolo (SAN), opposed the move to allow the witness tender the documents and testify without a written deposition, insisting that he was taken by surprise with the appearance of the INEC staff. Both INEC’s and PDP’s counsel aligned with him. Though tribunal ruled them out of order, they promised to include their objections in their written addresses.
The documents of nomination tendered states the former Governor as being the PDP candidate for Akwa Ibom North East. No political party has the right in law to change the name of a nominee except dead or by voluntary withdrawal of the candidate, the witness declared.
Counsel to the petitioner, Chief Assam Assam (SAN) insisted that he did not summon the witness but rather, the witness was subpoenaed by the tribunal of which all parties to the petition were aware. He opined that the authority to summon the witness is in accordance with Paragraph 42 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act as amended and therefore the argument of the witness not having a written deposition and therefore cannot testify does not arise. Besides, all parties were notified during the pre trial that the witness shall be called to tender documents and testify, a formal request was made, applied for and approved by the tribunal, he submitted.
The ex Governor’s legal team were seen discussing in clusters outside the court premises moments after the tribunal adjourned the petition to Monday, August 3, 2015. They later hurriedly entered their cars and left the court premises.
Earlier, the court was told by a witness, PW6 , that there was no election in Ikono LGA ,contrary to the position of counsel to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents. Attempt to tender some Polling Units and Wards results of the area was opposed by Assam Assam (SAN), counsel to the petitioner. Arguments went on, forcing the witness to be on the witness box for more than three hours.
Election results from six wards and three polling units were accepted in court and marked as Exibit B3, B4, B5, B6, B7, B8, B9, B10, and B11. But the witness insisted that all the election results presented were forged. No result ever took place in Ikono and the all results tendered before the tribunal were fabricated, he insisted. The die appears cast on this one.