By Wole Arisekola
Senator Godswill Akpabio Tuesday lamented the monumental manipulations that characterised the Akwa Ibom West senatorial district election in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly Election, saying the election that produced Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the election was highly skewed against him by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Akpabio made the allegation when speaking as evidence-in-chief in a petition he filed at the National Assembly Election Petitions sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, challenging the declaration of Ekpenyong as winner of the election.
Akpabio said he contested against the PDP and INEC.
Led in evidence by his counsel, Sunday Ameh, Akpabio said, “If this is (election) how INEC is going to conduct election in Nigeria, it is a pity.”
He said in his testimony that INEC showed a great deal of bias against him by mutilating result from many units and wards in the senatorial district to make sure votes to him were either reduced or invalidated to make them insignificant in overall result in the district.
Akpabio, who was visibly agitated in the witness box, told the court he felt so bad that the election which he got majority of votes cast was mutilated to favour his opponent.
Akpabio accused INEC of hooding election materials when he requested them to prepare his case.
“It was what INEC gave me that I relied on to prepare my case. Out of 169 units in the senatorial district, only in 166 polling units INEC gave us true certified copy of the result sheet.”
When told by the first respondent (Ekpenyong’s) counsel, U. U Njoku, that his claims to winning the election was based on invalidated votes, Akpabio said, “Majority of votes cast for me were lawful while those for my opponent were unlawful.”
In response to Solomon Umoh’s claims, counsel to the second respondent, the PDP, that he (Akpabio) did not vote during the election, because there was no election in his polling unit, Akpabio said it was a great disservice by INEC to say that the result from his polling unit 9, Ward 11 in Ukana West 2 were not recorded in the final result sheet for the local government.
Also, answering question from INEC’s counsel, Robert Emukpoeru, that he (Akpabio) did not apply for smart card reader and voters’ register because they will not support his case, Akpabio said he knew that they were sensitive materials which were exclusive to INEC.
Earlier, the three-man tribunal had over ruled the second respondent’s counsel, Umoh , who objected to the admissibility of police report which confirmed that election was peaceful in the petitioner’s polling unit as against INEC’s claims that the result from the polling unit was cancelled due to violence.
But the tribunal in a ruling dismissed the objection raised by Umoh, that a witness cannot give evidence on an exhibit that he had not been listed in his deposition and affidavit on oath, insisting that it was not listed among the evidence in his deposition.
In a ruling, Chairman of the panel, Justice W. Akanbi, said the exhibits were conveniently covered by many paragraphs of the petitioner’s statement on oath and reply to respondents’ response to the petitioner’s petition.
“We are of the view it is the duty of the petitioner to tender evidence in open court. The court cannot sit in the confines of its home to sort out exhibits to be identified.
“We hold the view that the exhibits are conveniently covered. They respondents cannot say they were taken by surprise. They were lifted from evidence in court. Objection over ruled,” the court held.
Earlier, a witness, Anietie Ekong, who was subpoena by the tribunal said he would be surprised that there was no result in Unit 9, Ward 11 in Essien Udim Local Government Area, where Akpabio voted in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Ekong, told the court that to say Akpabio did not vote during the February 23 election will be “ridiculous.”
He spoke under cross examination, after he was lead to present a video clip in the open court by Ameh which showed Akpabio and wife going through accreditation and voting during the election.
He said he was surprised that INEC is saying there was no election, and that Akpabio didn’t go through accreditation and voting in his polling unit.
*Arisekola is a journalist and publisher