*INEC vows to pursue case to end
*Says submitted medical report forged
By Chioma Onuegbu Uyo
THE ongoing trial of Professor Ignatius Uduk of the University of Uyo, UNIUYO, for alleged electroral fraud during the 2019 election
suffered another setback, due to the absence of the Defence counsel, Abasiodiong Ekpenyong in Court, on yesterday.
The Professor in the department of Physical and Health Education, UNIUYO, was a Collation/Returning Officer for Essien Udim State constituency election.
He has been standing trial on three-count amended charge bordering on abandonment of duties, publishing of false election result scores, and lying on oaths, brought against him by the Independent National Electoral Commissíon (INEC).
Recall that the accused person’s absence in court on June 26th 2022,on grounds of ill-health had also stalled the continuation of his trial in Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Uyo, presided over by Justice Bassey Nkanang.
And his Lawyer, Abasiodiong Ekpenyong, had sought for adjournment pending when he would be strong enough to come to court again, which the Prosecuting Counsel, Clement Onwuenwunor (SAN) did not oppose.
Accordingly, the trial judge, Nkanang had adjourned the case to July 27th and 28th for the accused person to enter his defence.
But, when the matter came up yesterday, Wednesday, July 27th, Ekpenyong, the Defence counsel himself was absent.
During the proceedings, the INEC Lawyer, Onwuenwunor informed the Court that Ekpenyong had served them a letter, and attached medical report the previous day, Tuesday, July 26th saying that he would not come to Court because he has health challenge since Sunday.
Onwuenwunor noted that one of his colleagues saw the Defence counsel in a Court in Ikot Ekpene local government area, on Tuesday where he was representing his client, and therefore urged the Court to discountenance the letter seeking another adjournment of the case.
“My Lord, the defense Lawyer has put in so many applications, to frustrate this case. The excuse given for adjournment was clearly unfounded. My Lord, my application for this letter of adjournment is for the bail granted the accused person be revoked pending when he is ready open his defence” he added.
The prosecuting Counsel tendered to the court original copy of a police investigation report, which confirmed that the medical report that Professor Uduk was on admission in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), earlier submitted to the court,by his Lawyer and which had stalled continuation of trial on June 26th was actually forged.
The letter dated July 25, 2022 entitled: “Police investigation Report. Re: Forgery of Medical Report to escape justice”, made available to newsmen yesterday reads in part “I refer to your letter dated 18th July, 2022 on the above subject matter and I forward herewith police investigation report as requested.
“The allegation was objectively and meticulously investigated . The medical report did not emanate from LASUTH , it is fake and the name of Dr. A. O Akintunbo that signed the said medical report Is not on the nominal roll of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH)”
However, when the Court questioned the accused person about the fake medical report, he said he was not privy to it, adding, “I was not a part of it,”
After listening to Prof Uduk’s pleading over his health condition and after looking at his age, the trial judge turned down the prosecuting Counsel’s application to revoke his bail.
Justice Nkanang, however, appealed that he must ensure he entered his defence at the next adjourned date, stressing, “I will not revoke the bail but we must return and complete the defence within this legal year. This case shall stand adjourned till the 8th day of August, 2022 for defence”
The trial of Uduk, as INEC’s Ad-hoc staff has suffered setback from the onset, as a result of repeated adjournments and excuses.
Recall that Professor Ignatius Uduk was first arraigned by INEC in December 2020, before Justice Archibong, Archibong,of the State High Court4, Uyo, after several attempts by INEC to arraign him failed.
Following the elevation of Justice Archibong to another Court, the matter was reassigned to Justice Bassey Nkanang and the case started afresh in January 2021.
Fielding questions from newsmen shortly after the court proceedings, the prosecuting Counsel who had their case since January 27, 2022, described the series of adjournments by the defence as ‘a delay tactics’ and “gimmicks’ aimed at frustrating the case.
Throwing more light on the police investigation report he said: “..after the last date where the accused person was reported sick and the medical report was also presented, we caused an investigation into it.
“And the police report from the Commissioner of Police Lagos is that medical report submitted on the last adjourned date is forged and that professor Ignatius Uduk was never admitted in LASUTH ,and that the doctor who signed the said medical report is not on the nominal role of the teaching hospital
“What today’s proceeding showed for the whole world to see, is that the defence is simply not interested in going on with this case and I believe they have no defence, that is why they want to use this gimmick to frustrate this prosecution, but they won’t succeed.
“If they don’t have a case they should concede. By the grace of God we’ll see to the end of this case and ensure that justice is done. We are not frustrated at all, we are ready for this case and we will continue to pursue it”