Several dramas played out Wednesday as the first respondent, Chris Ekpenyong, presents more witnesses in the petition challenging his declaration as the winner of the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district.
Senator Goodswil Akpabio and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are challenging Ekpenyong’s declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as winner of the February 23 national assembly election.
Ekpenyong was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the election.
The first witness, Elizerbeth Gabriel Usen, a staff of INEC, led by Ekpenyong’s lead counsel, Uche Njoku, said she was a supervisor at units 11 and 13 Afaha Ward 2 in Essien Udim Local Government Area.
She stated that APC armed thugs hijacked election materials on the day of votig but said she did not state it in her report, which she said led to the cancellation of the units’ results.
Under examination by Njoku, she said that APC thugs swapped PVCs card which brought along with them to perpetuate election irregularities.
She narrated before the tribunal that APC thugs stormed the units, hijacked election materials and swapped PVCs for the card readers and thumb printed ballot papers to carry to carry out rigging.
When the petitioners’ counsel, Sunday Ameh, asked under cross examination, whether she stated this in her report to her superior , she said she did not.
Asked if card readers record number of those accredited, she said she does not know because she does not work with ICT department of INEC.
When shown INEC document that authenticated voting in the units with 316 accredited voters in unit 11 and 239 in unit 13, and asked if there was sign of voting she said she does not know. Also, INEC’s document tendered before the court in defence of the petition, which showed results of the alleged cancelled units, was showed to her, though Mrs Gabriel Usen admitted it to be from her employer but she said she did not know how it came about.
When also shown result sheets from the units, she confessed that they were from INEC but did not know how they came about because there not election in the units.
She claimed there were no policemen at the polling units neither did she see any security officers who escorted the election materials to the units.
She said she did not report the invasion of the units by armed thugs to the police but to her superiors INEC following instructions.
The second witness, Richard Benjamin, a PDP agent in unit 5, ward 10 in Ini Loca! Local Government Area, told the tribunal that armed thugs destroyed election materials in his unit and so there was no election.
In his deposition before the court, he did not mention it that armed thugs invaded the polling unit.
He said there were policemen in his unit when armed thugs came to the place but did not report the matter to the police, only to party officials.
He contradicted the first respondent who had said everything went well in the unit in his response to petitioners’ petition.
The third witness for the day, Ekpe Okon Akpan, also a PDP agent from unit 3, ward 10 Ini Local Government Area, contradicted himself when he was shown INEC document which showed the column for accreditation was ticked for his unit.
He had earlier told INEC’S counsel, Ifeoluwa Ojediran that there was no accreditation, voting or election in his unit.
The tribunal adjourned till Thursday.