The hearing of the petition challenging the victory of the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Emmanuel Udom, by the APC gubernatorial candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere, took a dramatic turn on Wednesday, 24th July, as one of the Adhoc staff employed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the 9th March 2019 elections was called to the stands.
The election petition tribunal sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on Wednesday, began receiving witnesses and testimonies, as part of its ongoing efforts to interrogate the events that led to the announcement of the incumbent governor as the winner in the race to the Hilltop Mansion location of the Governorment House, Uyo, following a petition brought before it by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Obong Nsima Ekere.
He was called to the stands by the Lead Counsel to the petitioner, J. S. Okutepa (SAN) and in his testimony, the INEC Ad-hoc Staff (names witheld), who was posted to a polling unit in Obot Akara LGA as Assistant Presiding Officer (APO2), described that on the day, electoral activities had commenced normally, until suddenly, a gang of hoodlums brandishing all kinds of dangerous weapons arrived in a 14-seater bus, and promptly chased away innocent citizens who had queued up to carry out their civil duties by exercising rights to vote.
He further explained that, in the ensuing melee, all the officers at the polling unit, including polling materials that had been delivered to them for the elections, were rounded up, led into the bus, and driven to a house.
Upon arrival, he continued, the officials were led into a large room where they met a number of other Adhoc INEC officials, including his immediate boss (who was captured in the video) and others who had likely been abducted from other polling units, and made to forcefully thumbprint on provided ballot papers. The witness provided a recording which he had secretly made on his phone of these events as evidence, and the video was played at the hearing.
After cross-examination by counsels to the defendants – Dr. Onyeachi Ikpeazu OON (SAN) lead counsel to the 1st respondent, and Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), counsel to the second respondent, the tribunal led by justice A. M. Yakubu directed that the phone on which the recording was made be admitted into evidence as exhibit PTH81A while the CD on which the video was written was admitted as exhibit PTH81B.
The hearing continued on Thursday as the 1st petitioner and APC gubernatorial candidate in the Akwa Ibom elections, Nsima Udo Ekere and his deputy, Amadu Attai, took to the stands to give their testimonies.
The hearing was subsequently adjourned till Monday, 29th July 2019, on which day the 1st defendant is expected to open their case.