The Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal on Thursday finally ended hearings for the petition brought by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr. Umana Okon Umana and the APC against the election of Governor Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Bags of fraudulent INEC incident forms

When the case was called on Thursday, the lawyer to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Alex Ejesieme, informed the Tribunal that the Commission would not present more witnesses other than the four they have called in their defense. He formally announced that the 3rd and 4th Respondents, INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, have closed their case.

INEC was expected to end its defense on Friday, September 18, 2015. The Commission had listed a total of 94 witnesses but abruptly closed its defense after calling just four witnesses. On Thursday, September 16 Mr. Ejesieme had told the Tribunal that the person he intended to call as their 5th witness had "suddenly developed health problems".

Lawyers to the PDP and Governor Udom Emmanuel, Messrs Tayo Oyetibo, and Mr. Paul Usoro, informed the Tribunal that they have pending applications before the Tribunal. However, the Tribunal by consent of all the parties ruled that all pending applications should be taken along with the final addresses.

After deliberations, the Justice Sadiq Umar-led judicial panel directed that the Respondents should file and serve their final written addresses on the Petitioners within 7 days beginning from Monday, September 21, 2015, while the Petitioners should file and serve their final written addresses on the Respondents within 4 days of being served by the Respondents. Also, the Respondents are to file their reply on point of law to the Petitioners addresses, if any, within 3 days of being served by the Petitioners.

Meanwhile, the Tribunal ordered the 3rd Respondent, the PDP, to evacuate the 7 big bags of Incident Forms allegedly used during the election from the Registry of the Tribunal since the PDP had failed and refused to tender them before the Tribunal. The Chairman and other members of the Tribunal stated further that the forms, not being exhibits, are of no relevance to the Tribunal and should be taken away so as to decongest the Registry.

The PDP averred in their defense that Card Reader was not the only means of accreditation. Some of the witnesses who testified before the Tribunal had equally said that Incident Forms were used.

However, the PDP abandoned the 7 bags of Incident Forms after causing a subpoena to be issued for INEC to bring the Incident Forms before the Tribunal. Several credible sources revealed that the forms said to have been fraudulently invented after the election was dumped by the Respondents when they realized that they did not sign the forms. Sources revealed that the Respondents had no choice but to abandon them to avoid worsening their case.

A legal expert who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that with this fraudulent development, the defense of manual accreditation put up by the Respondents has totally crumbled since one cannot talk about malfunctioning of the Card Readers without the Incident Forms.

The case has been adjourned to October 8, 2015 for the adoption of final written addresses.

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