The Returning Officer (RO) for Essien Udim local government in the Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district election, Dr William Olosunde, says he did not announce 61,329 votes for the APC as claimed by Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Olosunde insisted that the said figure bandied by Akpabio and the APC was inflated by the claimants and was not a product of the election.
“I didn’t conclude collation and never announce results while at Essien Udim, so I did not give the police or any party agent any such result,” he cried.
He also said that Mr Godwin Michael Afangideh who earlier presented the result before the tribunal as APC Local Government Agent for Essien Udim was an impostor, stating that the name of the APC collation agent for the local government area written on Exhibit P534 was Hon. (Dr.) Etido Udo.
The returning officer said the February 23 elections were marred by inconsistency in the number of accredited voters, non- compliance with the electoral guidelines.
Olosunde claimed that he and other officials of INEC were beaten up at the collation centre by thugs.
The returning officer, who was confronted by Counsel to the Petitioner Sunday Ameh SAN, with the allegation that he absconded from the collation said “My lord, I did not abscond. After the invasion by thugs, we resumed collation in line with INEC guidelines.
“It was the Electoral Officer (EO) who advised me that if we wanted to leave that collation centre alive, I should suspend collation using Card Readers and escape from the centre, and I informed others.
Olosunde said the result tendered in exhibit by Akpabio and the APC through Afangideh had no foundation, explaining that Dr Ngozika Oleforo the Collation Officer for Ukana West 1 Ward and Prof. David Edem the Collation Officer for Ikpe Annang Ward brought Ward results in Form EC8B without any Form EC8A, the unit results in series to back up the ward results.
“I asked Prof. David Edem, the first collation Officer that arrived to show me Form EC8A(1), which are unit results of his Ward Ikpe Annang, but he told me that he had no polling unit results and the figures representing each unit were not backed by Form EC8A(1)
“The electoral officer told him that ‘if he cannot present the unit results from where he obtained the figures on the ward result sheet, then he will have to follow us to the commission headquarters in Uyo to explain the source of the figures’.”
Olosunde said it was the inability of the ward collation to present the unit results that informed the cancellation of election in the two wards.
The RO explained that the electoral guidelines authorise the cancellation of election results where the number of votes exceeds the total number of accredited voters, insisting that the cancellation of result from the two wards was in order.
During examination which lasted for more than one hour, Olosunde said that the number of accredited voters for Essien Udim was 19,455, far less than the 61,329 votes claimed by APC.
He said due to irregularities, the results of seven of the 11 wards were cancelled.
“Seven wards were outrightly cancelled and affected units in the remaining four wards were also cancelled”
“It was the cancellation of those wards and some units that reduced the number of accredited voters to 9,964 as contained in Exhibit P534”.
“Form EC40G(1), that is Exhibits R352 and R352A are those documents I signed to formalize those cancellations, where votes outnumbered accreditation or were not backed up with accreditation at all in some wards”.
Three other witnesses, including a female NYSC member, who were presiding officers at some units in Essien Udim, also alleged that they were abducted at gunpoint to unknown locations and made to thumbprint and write results in favour of APC in their respective units.
The tribunal adjourned to Tuesday, July 23 for the continuation of hearing by the respondents.