Wednesday 19, 2019 was another nail-biting day for Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio at the ongoing National Assembly Tribunal holding at court 5 Metro Road, Uyo.
The senator was all nerves, sitting uncomfortably on plastic sit watching as his witnesses – one after the other – inadvertently admitted to irregularities during the National Assembly election in Ekpenyong wards 1 and 2.
The first witness for the day (W8), Arc. Ubokutom Nyah, fumbled through cross examination. He claimed on oath to be an APC polling agent in Ekpenyong-2, Essien Udim Local Government Area however during cross examination by the lead counsel to PDP, Mr. Solomon Umoh SAN, his attention was drawn to the fact that his party did not submit his name to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as APC polling agent, his shoulder sagged.
Nyah stuttered as his claims fell like a pack cards. While struggling to explain this irregularity, Nyah was confronted with names of accredited party agents by INEC from his unit, but his name was missing. At this point he stood tongue tie not knowing what further explanations to give.
Seconds later, the voters’ register of his unit was presented to him, where he identified his name but insisted that the register before him was not genuine. Consequently, lead counsel to PDP, Solomon Umoh SAN declared before the tribunal that W8 was not a ward agent for APC at 2019 elction.
It was now the turn of Counsel to Senator Chris Ekpenyong, Kanu Agabi, SAN, to cross examine the witness. It was the same story all over again; the witness’ name was conspicuously absent from the voter register submitted to INEC as an agent of the party.
In his feeble defense W8 noted “I was not privy to see the names submitted to INEC but I was given a ward agent tag.”
Asked whether elections held in his ward, Nyah, answered in affirmative that there was accreditation and election in all the units in his ward, however he admitted that he did not witnessed the exercise in all the polling units but only got the reports and results from what he was told by the unit agents.
Next in the witness stand was the ninth witness (W9) for petitioner, Hon Cletus Udo Akpan of Oruk Obong, Ekpenyong Atai ward 1.
During cross examination by Counsel to the PDP, Solomon Umoh, SAN , W9 crumbled as he was unable to locate his name on the INEC voters register. He also could not produce a voter’s card, prompting Umoh to infer that his inability to produce a valid voter’s card means he was not even a registered voter and never voted during election at the said unit contrary to his witness statement.
“My Lord, I put it to him that he is not a registered voter, that is why he did not attach his voter’s card to his witness statement”, Umoh declared.
To make his situation more alarming, Udo Akpan who informed the tribunal that he did not witness announcement of results in the 15 polling units of his ward, confessed that he based his witness statement on oral reports he received from polling unit agents via telephone.
The witness further contradicted himself when he told the tribunal that accreditation took place in all polling units within his ward but from INEC exhibits presented to him, there are no records of accredit action.
After a 30-minute recess, the petitioner called the tenth witness (W10), Raphael Udoma.
Udoma claimed under cross examination that exhibits presented to him which included voter’s register and result sheets from INEC were at variance with the ones actually used at pollling units in his ward during the National Assembly election.
He however admitted that he did not witnessed accreditation and election in all polling units but relied on hearsay and oral reports from his informants.
“I chose to believe my informants who told me that there were elections in their units, I don’t believe the reports contained in the Exhibits from INEC that elections were cancelled. It is shocking”, Raphael Udoma exclaimed.
In response, Counsel to PDP admonished him: “Witness, it is shocking because your informants did not tell you the truth. My Lord, he chose to believe his informants who he only heard from, instead of those INEC certified documents he has seen with his eyes”.
After cross examining W10, the tribunal adjourned the session to sit again on Thursday, June 20, when the petitioner is expected to submit its last set of witnesses.