Akwa Ibom: Udom Loses Bid To Stop APC Witnesses At Election Petition | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Akwa Ibom: Udom Loses Bid To Stop APC Witnesses At Election Petition

Posted: Jul 14, 2015 at 9:40 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Joe Nwankwo, Abuja


Efforts by Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State to stop the witnesses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Umana  Umana, from testifying against him on the last governorship election on Tuesday failed as the election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja threw out his application for being strange and unfounded in law.

The tribunal dismissed the request by the governor that all the APC witnesses be disqualified from testifying against him on the ground that they used initials in place of their names in their statements on oath billed to be used to prosecute a petition challenging his election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Sadiq Umar, while giving ruling on the application by the governor and the PDP, said the request was strange and cannot be supported by any law.

Umar, while dismissing the request, agreed with the submission of counsel to the petitioner, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, that the witnesses have the right under the law to use their initials or acronyms on their statements on oath.

The tribunal held that the Practice Direction formulated by the Court of Appeal, guiding the procedures of the election petition tribunals clearly allowed the use of initials or acronyms in place of the names of the witnesses to protect the witnesses from intimidation and harassment by the opposition party in view of the volatility nature of politics in the country.

Counsel to the governor, Paul Usoro, SAN, and? Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, for the PDP, had separately raised objections to the statements on oath made by all the APC witnesses on the grounds that their real names were not on the statements but initials and acronyms.

Oyetibo specifically objected to the calling of any witness to adopt a statement on oath because, according to him, there was no nexus between the statement and the witnesses.

He submitted that the mere use of initials or acronyms should not be allowed by the tribunal to confer the originator on the witnesses since their real names were not printed on the statements.

The counsel also argued that his client would be denied fair hearing if ghost witnesses whose names are not on the statements on oath were allowed to testify before the tribunal against his client.

However, the panel’s chairman overruled the objection for being misplaced, adding that the law and the practice direction are so clear and unambiguous that witnesses in an election petition can use initials or acronyms to safeguard themselves from being attacked, molested or intimidated by the opposing party in an election petition.

After the ruling, Olanipekun complained of attempts by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to frustrate his case by preventing his men from inspecting the election materials used for the polls.

The tribunal chairman directed INEC to comply with the earlier order of the tribunal to allow the inspection of the ballot papers and other materials used for the election.

Umana, the APC candidate in the election, had challenged the victory of Udom on the grounds of irregularities and malpractices, and prayed the tribunal to annul the election and order a fresh one.