INEC, 2023 presidential election

By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo

THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Thursday concluded its prosecution at the Akwa Ibom state High Court sitting in Uyo, in the alleged electoral fraud case against Professor Ignatius Uduk of the University of Uyo, UNIUYO.

Professor Uduk of the department of Physical and Health Education (UNIUYO) who was engaged by INEC as the Collation/Returning Officer for the Essien Udim state constituency elections during 2019 general elections was arraigned in December 2020 under charge no. HU/240c/2020 for allegedly publishing and announcing false election results.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, January 27, 2022 , the Prosecution Lawyer, Mr. Clement Onwuenwunor, called four Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) of INEC as witnesses, bringing the total number of its witnesses to five(5).

During Cross examination, Ms. Geraldine Okpashi, Supervisory Presiding Officer, Odoro Ikot 2, told the Court that during the election she was going round from one polling unit to another within her Registration Area (RA) when she received a call that there were gunshots at a polling unit and that the presiding officer was abducted.

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Okpashi who appeared in court as second Prosecution Witness(PW2) , said when she got to the polling unit she was afraid as She did not see any poll official and the sensitive materials taken away.

“I witnessed election violence at the last polling unit because I was there when the thugs arrived. When they started shooting I had to run away”, She noted.

Also the third Prosecution Witness (PW3) Mr. Daniel Udoka, Supervisory Presiding Officer, Ukana West, Registration Area 011, testified that after distribution of election materials in the area during the state Assembly elections, thugs later came and hijacked the materials and abducted the Presiding Officers to unknown destination.

He added that the Presiding Officers had told him that they were forced to thumb print ballot papers in favour of the All Progressives Congress Candidate.

The Defence Counsel however, decided not to cross examine the fourth and fifth Prosecution Witnesses, (PW4 and PW5)

The trial Judge, Justice Bassey Nkanang adjourned the case till February 24, 2022 for the adoption of ‘No case Submission’ that would be filed by the Defence Counsel.

Fielding question from newsmen on why he decided to file a ‘No case Submission’, after the close of Prosecution case ,the Defence Lawyer, Mr. Abasiodiong Ekpenyong, noted “A no case submission address is a position of the defence after the close of the case of the Prosecution, stating two things;

“That the evidence led by the Prosecution does not meet the requirement of Law or if it does, it has been manifestly discredited under cross examination so much so that no reasonable tribunal can proceed thereafter, that is the purpose of no case submission”

Ekpenyong stressed that when a Lawyer for a public interest driven case as this decides not to cross examine a witness , something was fundamentally on the ground.

“So today as you have seen they have fielded four witnesses and they have concluded their evidence. As to the reason why some were not cross examined the case has been adjourned till February 24, 2022, so we await the reason in my address”

Also speaking, the Prosecution Lawyer, Clement Onwuenwunor said, “The Defence counsel told the Court that he will be making a ‘no case submission’. Well, the Law provides for that, he has the right to first put in no case submission and when we get to that bridge we will cross it.

” We will make our responses to the court and we are confident that we are on a very strong ground in this case”

Onwuenwunor however said they are satisfied with the evidences given by their witnesses, adding that INEC needs to be commended for at least pulling this case to this day.

“We have called a total of five witnesses in this matter. And as you saw in Court, the defence counsel had no question for some of them, we have closed our case and the matter stands adjourned till 24 February, 2022.

“And we are very confident that all the elements of the counts have been proved. This case is going to serve as a very great reference, particularly as we approach the 2023 general elections. It is going to be a guide for both staff and Adhoc staff employed by INEC to supervise the elections.

“Also, it is going to serve as a firewall particularly in this state, or elsewhere in this country, that whoever is engaged by INEC, to supervise an election must respect the rule of engagement.That is the importance of this case and everybody needs to pay attention to what is happening in Akwa Ibom”, Onwuenwunor said.

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