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Justice On Trial: 10 Salient Issues In The Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petition,

By on October 12, 2015 0 96 Views

Inibehe Effiong

Gombe-Tribunal“No election known to law, no election known to mankind, no election known to civilization was conducted in Akwa Ibom State” – Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN.

The epochal statement quoted above which is currently trending on social media was part of the forceful submission made by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN the lead counsel to the petitioners, Mr. Umana Okon Umana and the All Progressives Congress (APC), before the Justice Sadiq Umar-led Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (Court 8) Abuja on Thursday October 8, 2015 while making oral adumbration in support of the petitioners’ final written address. Beyond its lucidity and semantical appeal, the statement by the very learned silk is an undeniable summation of the sordid events of April 11, 2015 in Akwa Ibom State.

Let me hasten to say that there is no slight intention to direct the minds of the judges in their consideration and determination of the case before them. This exposition is neither sacrosanct nor conclusive. All that is sought to be achieved is to arm members of the public with the hard facts of this case and disabuse the minds of those who may have already been misled by deliberate distortions and falsehood presently being canvassed through a section of the media by persons who think they can brazenly rig elections and also rape our sanity at the same time.

In unmasking and dissecting the kernel of the case before the Tribunal, I will as briefly as possible address the issues which I deem salient and crucial to the resolution of the dispute over the character and acceptability of what took place in Akwa Ibom State on April 11, 2015 under the following headings: 1. What led to the petition?, 2. Accreditation, 3. Voting, 4. Collation, 5. Recording on all relevant INEC Forms, 6. Sorting and preservation of ballot papers. 7. Part of the report of the forensic experts, 8 Report of law enforcement agencies, 9. Defending the indefensible, 10. Conclusion. These issues are not mutually exclusive, they are interrelated. As such, there will likely be occurrence of overlapping arguments and facts in the course of this analysis. I solicit the indulgence of the reader(s) should this piece appear voluminous and lengthy. The truth is that a textbook will not suffice for an all encompassing discussion of all the issues involved in this very historic case.

What led to the petition?

It is true that the Nigerian political class is not easily amenable to conceding defeat at elections. The tendency to challenge the outcome of election is very much entrenched in our polity. However, the present case offers a persuasive exception to this belief. This is so because we can only talk about conceding or accepting defeat when there is a genuine, transparent, free, fair and credible contest. It will be an abuse of language to talk about concession of defeat when in fact there was no contest within the framework of legally cognisable rules and regulations. We cannot forget so soon what transpired in Akwa Ibom State on April 11, 2015.

This was a purported election that was marred by violence, kidnappings, killings, harassment of voters, hijacking of election materials and unprecedented rigging. Both international and local observers returned a unanimous verdict; that the ‘election’ was a sham. They demanded a complete cancellation of the election. I personally flew in from Lagos State to participate in the process and discharge my civic responsibility. My mission was unsuccessful, due to no fault of mine, but because instead of an election, we had without mincing words a state sponsored terror. April 11, 2015 was a tragic day for democracy in Akwa Ibom State. Justifiably dissatisfied with the outcome of the shambolic exercise, the APC gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Umana Okon Umana and his party sought legal redress by filing a petition at the election tribunal seeking a cancellation of the purported election. The Tribunal commenced sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital but had to be relocated to the Federal Capital Territory owing to the unfavourable security atmosphere orchestrated by the very people who denied the electorates their franchise.

For there to be an election properly so called, certain fundamental ingredients or elements must be present. This is so because election as held by the Court of Appeal in the case of Fayemi v. Oni (2010) 17 NWLR (pt. 1222) 326 is a process. It includes accreditation, voting, sorting, collation, filing of forms, declaration of winner and preservation of election documents and materials. Therefore, it is not correct to say that there was an election merely because someone wrote and declared results. That will be akin to having a child without going through intercourse and pregnancy. That will be an unthinkable and eccentric absurdity. There must be substantial compliance with each of the ingredients for there to be an election.

Accreditation:

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is the 3rd respondent in the petition had on April 2, 2015 in the exercise of its powers pursuant to the Constitution and the Electoral Act issued a press statement insisting that for the April 11, 2015 Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections in the country, only the card reader should be used for the accreditation of voters. It should be stated that the said press statement was a reaffirmation of the Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of the 2015 General Elections and the Manual for Election Officials, 2015 (Updated Version) both of which are subsidiary legislations. They have the force of law just like the Constitution and the Electoral Act. It is settled law that an Election Manuel is binding and breach thereof can lead to fatal consequences in an election. This was the decision in the case of Ajadi v. Ajibola (2004) 16 NWLR (pt. 898) 91 at 170. In the Fayemi’s case cited above, Manual was applied for the purpose of nullifying election.

Interestingly, the case of the respondents as distillable from paragraphs 9 and 11 (a) (c) of the 1st respondent’s reply, 5 (a) and 6 (a) of the 2nd respondent’s reply and 8 and 9 (b) of the of the Reply of the 3rd and 4th respondents, is that there was no argument as to the fact that Card Readers were introduced for purposes of accreditation in the 2015 election. The petitioners obtained the Certified True Copy of the polling unit by polling unit accreditation data for the whole of the State from the 3rd respondent (INEC) in Abuja on 27th April, 2015 which was tendered and admitted as Exhibit 317. The case of the petitioners is that whereas Exhibit 317 gave an aggregate figure of 437, 128 of accredited voters, the 1st respondent announced a phantom figure of 1, 122, 836 votes. This translates to a differential of 685, 708.

Although the 1st respondent (Udom Emmanuel) had set out in paragraph 13 (a) of his reply to deny the existence of the figures of accredited voters as contained in the table in paragraph 29 of the petition, that attempt was completely abandoned as no iota of evidence was led on it during trial. Non of the respondents made any slight effort to contradict the figure in Exhibit 317. The respondents never attempted to discharge the evidential burden of proof on them to explain the differential of 685, 708. All the respondents was to argue that Section 49 of the Electoral Act allows for manual accreditation and that the recent Court of Appeal decision in APC v. Agbaje & Ors (unreported) cross-appeal no. CA/L/EP/GOV/751A/2015 erodes the petitioners reliance on card reader as a basis for seeking the nullification of the ‘election’.

However, it should be stated that there is nothing in the letters and spirit of Section 49 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) that excludes the use of Card Readers for accreditation. The said Section is not exhaustive on accreditation. In any case, the respondents did not disclose how the so-called ‘Manuel Accreditation’ was done. The closest attempt in that regard was when the 2nd respondent (PDP) subpoenaed INEC to bring 7 big bags allegedly containing Incident Forms which they said was used for accreditation to the Tribunal only to mysteriously abandon them without tendering them before the Tribunal. The Tribunal was magnanimous enough to remind the 2nd respondent that it had not tendered the Incident Forms. Yet, it refused to do so. So how was the accreditation done? This is one question the respondents have totally evaded.

The case of APC v. Agbaje without prejudice to the decision of the Tribunal offers no assistance to the respondents. The facts of that case are easily distinguishable from the present case. In the said case, the petitioners had in paragraph 13 (b) of their petition made the issue of non-usage of card readers a ground of the petition. The Court of Appeal rightly held at pages 22-23 of the judgment that considering Section 138 (1) of the Electoral Act and the case of Ojukwu v. Yar’adua (2009) 12 NWLR (pt. 1154) 50, such cannot be a valid ground of a petition. In the present case, non use of card reader is not one of the three grounds of the petition. Interestingly, the appellate court stated in the case of APC v. Agbaje that while non use of card reader cannot be a ground, it can “conveniently serve as facts to buttress either grounds (b) or (c) in Section 138 (1) of the Electoral Act”. See page 23 of the judgment. In the present case, the grounds are contained in paragraph 15 of the petition, which reproduces the grounds under Section 138 (1) (b) and (c) of the Electoral Act verbatim.

In consonance with the admonition of the Court of Appeal in APC v. Agbaje (supra), the petitioners furnished facts on non-compliance with the Guidelines and Manual, particularly, on the non-usage of card readers to buttress the grounds of the petition. Indisputably, the case of APC v. Agbaje does not avail the respondents. It Is rather in support of the petitioners’ case. I will conclude on this point by saying that non of the 19 witnesses called by the 1st respondent (Udom Emmanuel) and the 4 called by the 2nd respondent (PDP) was accredited during the election. Although they had stated in their various written statement on oath that they were accredited, it was shown during cross examination that non of their names was ticked in the voters register as having been accredited. The only document before the Tribunal on accreditation is Exhibit 317 tendered by the petitioners which puts the figure at 437, 128. It is left for the Tribunal to determine whether the burden of proof on this issue had shifted from the petitioners to the respondents.

Voting:

The case of the petitioners is that no voting known to law took place in nineteen of the thirty-one Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State due to hijacking or diversion of election materials. In proof of this, the petitioners called witnesses who testified to the widespread violence, disruption and hijacking of election materials and prevented voting from taking place. The witnesses includes the 1st petitioner (Umana Okon Umana) who testified as PW48. He tendered documentary evidence, including video CD to corroborate his testimony. The 1st petitioner was not allowed to vote as no election took place in his unit. Candidates of two other political parties; Accord and DPP, also testified during trial. Non of them was allowed to vote. PW33, Chief Don Obot Etiebet (CON), a former Minster testified of how the election was marred by violence and hijacking of materials. He equally tendered video CDs and other documentary evidence. PW34, Chidinma Nwodo, was an NYSC member who was deployed to serve as an ad-hoc staff. She testified of how materials were hijacked by thugs chanting ‘PDP’. She tendered her torn crested vest and the jacket given to her by a spirited member of the public. PW35, Obong Victor Attah, a former Governor of the State testified that there was no voting in his unit, ward and local government. He also tendered video CD.

It was therefore not surprising that the forensic analysts (PWs 51 and 52) discovered as experts that of the 129, 209 scanned ballot papers, among those alleged by INEC as having been used in the election, no less than 13, 258 had multiple or duplicate thumbprints and 103, 833 were not thumb-printed by humans. This evidence was no contradicted.

Collation:

This is another vital ingredient of a valid election that was lacking in the purported Governorship election of April 11, 2015 in Akwa Ibom State. PWs 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48 all gave evidence which were in my considered view neither effectively challenged nor discredited by the respondents that there was no collation at the polling unit, ward, Local Government and State level. Again, the report of the NSCDC (Exhibit 12), statement of AIG Adisa Baba Bolanta (Exhibit 337) and the various video clips (Exhibits 6, 11, 321 A-G) provide irresistible corroboration that no collation took place In the make believe election. Another strong evidence that there was nothing like collation is the collation forms, Forms EC8B, EC8B and EC8D. These forms were shown during trial to be replete with shocking anomalies and irregularities including several instances where one person signed as collation agent for several wards and where one person signed as both ward and Local Government collation agent. There were also instances were no agent of any of the parties, Including the 2nd respondent (PDP), signed at all.

The Returning Officer for the purported election was caught on tape (Exhibit 321C) “giving” votes to parties. Notably, PWs 1, 4, 7, 33, 44, 46 and the 1st petitioner gave chilling evidence that they were at the INEC headquarters in Uyo late into the night of April 11, 2015 and PWs 4, 44 and 36 further stated that they were there very early the next day. According to them, the gate of the 3rd respondent (INEC) State headquarters in Uyo was locked and that only security personnel were on ground. So where on earth did the final collation take place?. Was it at the Akwa Ibom State Government House as widely reported in the media? It should be noted that the 2nd respondent (PDP) did not call any of their collation agents to challenge the evidence of the petitioners witnesses. The PDP State Collation Agent was Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem. He deposed to about 20 paragraph statement on oath and was listed as their prime witness. He absconded, abandoned his statement and was never called as a witness to defend the so called election.

Recording on relevant INEC Forms:

Another vital element of a valid election lies in the recording of results and relevant information on prescribed electoral forms. It is apparent from the analysis of the Forms EC8B and EC8C purportedly filed in the election that what the respondents are propping as governorship election on the 11th day of April 2015 can only be a mockery and rape of electoral process. In twenty seven of the thirty one Local Government Areas of the State, there were shocking cases of fraudulent and multiple signing of result sheets, non signing of results by any of the parties and mutilation of results. For example: In Mkpat Enin Local Government Area (EXH. XX1 – XX14) one Barr. Jerry Akpan singlehandedly signed Form EC8B in all 14 wards. In Uyo Local Government Area (EXH. QQ1-QQ11) one Joseph Okon Peter signed Form EC8B in six wards, one Samuel Efiok Edem signed Form EC8B in 3 wards. All the results of Joseph Okon Peter is dated 12/04/2015 whereas the said results is said to have been collated on 11/04/2015. Results were also mutilated in Uyo. In Itu (EXH. LL1 – LL10), one Hon. Effiong O. Ebong signed Form EC8B in all the ten Wards in the area, that is Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. He also signed Form EC8C as Local Government Collation Agent. Alteration and mutilation of results in Itu occured in (West Itam 11, Ward 9), (East Itam 11, Ward 04), (East Itam V, Ward 07), (East Itam 111, Ward 05). In Ikot Abasi (EXH. NN1 – NN10), no party agent (not even PDP) signed Form EC8B in any of the Wards. In Udung Uko (EXH. FF1 – FF9) no party agent signed Form EC8B except in Ward 10. No agent signed Form EC8C (the local government result).

The other Local Government Areas affected by this sham are: Ibeno (EXH. 111 – 1110), Oron (EXH. VV1 – VV10), Ikono (EXH. 001 – 0011), Etinan (EXH. DDD1 – DDD11), Abak (EXH. UU1 – UU2), Ini (EXH. HHH1 – HHH9), Eket (EXH. CC1 – CC11), Uruan (EXH. HH1 – HH11), Nsit Ubium (EXH. JJ1 – JJ10), Esit Eket (EXH. 1111 – 11110), Ikot Ekpene (EXH. GG – GG11), Essien Udim (EXH. FF1 – FF11), Nsit Ibom (EXH. KK1 – KK10), Okobo (EXH. PP1 – PP9), Etim Ekpo (EXH. EE1 – EE10), Onna (EXH. ZZ1 – ZZ12), Ibesikpo Asutan (EXH. RR1 – RR10), Ukanafun (EXH. EEE1 – EEE11), Obot Akara (EXH. WW1 – WW10) Oruk Anam (EXH. YY1 – YY13), Ibiono Ibom (EXH. SS1 – SS11), and Mbo (EXH. DD1 – DD8).

In an election properly so called, there Is no way one person would sign collation Forms in more than one ward, given the fact that collation in the various wards are expected to take place simultaneously. How come that In Akwa Ibom we had numerous cases where one person signed results In all the wards? Is this not fraud? It is left for the Tribunal to draw necessary inference and decide whether there was election in Akwa Ibom State. Only PDP signed these results. It has been argued that parties that lose at the polls do not usually like signing results. Supposing without conceding that it is so, how does one explain the cases where even the PDP did not sign in several places they claimed ‘victory’?. No explanation was offered by the respondents for the numerous cases of alteration and mutilation of results as required of them under Section 160 (1) of the Evidence Act. Having not done so, the affected Forms are certainly destitute of every modicum of probative value. See the case of Orji v. Dorji Textiles Mill (Nig.) Ltd. (2010) ALL FWLR (Pt. 519) 999 at 1020 where the Supreme Court per, Niki Tobi, JSC, held thus:

“It is elementary law that where a document is altered, it no more enjoys any legal life. The document becomes moribund or dead to the extent of the alternation. Accordingly, a party cannot rely on such a document because it is lifeless in law”. Results were mutilated in at least twenty Local Government Areas. The Tribunal will pronounce on the validity of those so called results.

Sorting and preservation of ballot papers:

The scandalous state of the ballot papers purportedly used during the sham April 11, 2015 gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom State bears eloquent testimony of the unmatched level of criminality and crass impunity that played out during the so called election. The position of the law regarding how ballot papers should be preserved after polls is encapsulated in paragraph 2.8.5 of the Manual. Upon the completion of recording of votes on the appropriate Forms, used ballot papers in the election are required to be placed in Envelope EC50V; unused, rejected and spoilt ballot papers in the election are required to be placed in Envelope EC50A, counter-foils of ballot papers are required to be put in Envelope EC50C. There is obviously no gainsaying the fact that these simple procedures were not followed.

From the joint report of the forensic experts (PWs 50, 51 and 51), it is beyond argument that the ballot papers allegedly used for the election were muddled up with ballot papers Involving other elections and mangled inside ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags. Not done, INEC officials in Uyo deliberately immersed the ballot papers in water just to sabotage forensic inspection on them as ordered by the Tribunal. These are serious electoral offences. Confronted with the ballot papers, DW26 who acted as the Electoral Officer for Onna Local Government Area where the 1st respondent hails from could not identify the ballot papers used in the area. He confessed that they were “mixed up”. The questions are: who mixed them up and why? Who mixed ballot papers allegedly used for the Governorship election with those of National and State House of Assembly elections? Who mixed ballot papers of different units, wards and local government areas together?.

Part of the Report of the forensic experts (culled from Exhibit 340):

“NON-COMPLIANCE WITH INEC MANUAL FOR ELECTION OFFICIALS 2015 (UPDATED VERSION)

“It was the Petitioners allegation/pleading in Paragraph 15 (i) of the petition that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and/or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). Upon examination and analysis of the Certified True Copies of Voters register, EC 8As and EC8Bs where applicable, I found and same is apparent on the face of the said EC8As, EC8Bs and Voters Registers that there was non-compliance with the INEC Manual and Guidelines in most of the polling units in the following terms:

“I found, and same is apparent on the face of the EC8A and EC8B that in 227 Polling units across 102 Wards in 24 Local Government Areas, while results were cancelled on the EC8As and/or EC8Bs or no result was tendered at Inspection, INEC did not provide the EC40G as required by them according to paragraph 3.10 Step 1 on page 60 of the INEC Manual for Election Officials 2015 (updated version), online copy. The schedule of the affected polling units is attached as Appendix AO4 of our report. I found, and same is apparent on the face of the EC8A and EC8B that in 93 Polling units across 76 Wards in 26 Local Government Areas, while total votes indicated to have been cast on the face of the EC8As and EC8Bs of the affected polling units were more than the number of people indicated to have been accredited in the respective polling units, the results were not cancelled. The schedule of the affected polling units is attached as Appendix AO5 of our report

“In 302 Polling Units across 95 Wards in 18 Local Government Areas, I found, and same is apparent on the face of the Voters Register, that while no one was ticked to have voted on the Voters Register, INEC declared results for the respective Polling Units. The total votes cast in the affected polling units was 117,039 (One hundred and Seventeen Thousand, and Thirty Nine). Appendix AO6 of our report is the breakdown of the affected polling units. In 900 Polling Units across 220 Wards in 25 Local Government Areas, I found and same is apparent on the face of the Voters Register of the respective Polling Units that several people were indicated to have voted without accreditation on the voters registers. The total votes cast in the affected Polling Units was- . Appendix AO7 of our report is the breakdown of these findings.

“A further examination and analyses of Form EC8As and EC8Bs vis-à-vis the ticking done on the Registers for the respective units in the challenged Local Government Areas revealed as follows:

“In 970 Polling Units across 274 Wards in 31 Local Government Areas, I found and same is apparent on the face of the EC8As, EC8Bs and Voters Registers that the total number of voters ticked to have voted on the voters register when compared with the EC8A and EC8B, the ticking on the voters register was less than the total votes indicated to have been cast as recorded on the forms EC8As and/or EC8Bs respectively with at least a margin of 5 in each polling unit so affected. The total votes indicated to have been cast in the affected polling units were- 448,307 (Four Hundred and Forty Eight Thousand, Three Hundred and Seven). Appendix AO8 of our report is the breakdown of these findings. In 590 Polling Units across 221 Wards in 31 Local Government Areas, I found and same is apparent on the face of the EC8As, EC8Bs and Voters Registers that the total number of voters ticked to have voted on the voters register when compared with the EC8As and EC8Bs, the ticking on the voters register was more than the total votes indicated to have been cast as recorded on the EC8As and EC8Bs respectively with at least a margin of 5 in each polling unit so affected. The Total Votes said to have been Cast in the affected polling Units was 224,506 (Two Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand, Five Hundred and Six). Appendix AO9 of our report for the breakdown of these findings.

“ANALYSIS OF CERTIFIED TRUE COPIES OF EC 8A AND EC 8B VIS-À-VIS CERTIFIED TRUE COPY OF POLLING UNITS BY POLLING UNITS ACCREDITATION REPORT

Paragraphs 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 of the petition highlighted the usage of Card Reader in the conduct of the April 11, 2015 Governorship and House of Assembly. To establish compliance with the guidelines on usage of card readers as emphasised in Paragraph 2.2 of the INEC Manual for Election Officials 2015 (updated version) and the Press Release of INEC on the 2nd of April, 2015, I requested from INEC, through the Counsel to the Petitioners for certified true copies of the Polling Units by Polling Units (PU By PU) Card Reader Reports and Press Release.

“It was the petitioners’ allegation/pleadings in Paragraph 30, that the total votes allegedly cast on the results sheets were greater than the accredited voters as recorded on the card reader database.

Upon examination of the certified true copy of the Polling Units by Polling Units (PU by PU) Card Reader Accreditation report, I found and same is apparent on the face of the PU by PU Accreditation Report that while there were no entries recorded for 578 Polling Units in 163 Wards across 30 Local Government Areas, INEC declared results for the units. The total votes indicated to have been cast in the affected polling units were 238,987 (Two Hundred and Thirty Eight Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty Seven). Appendix AO10 of our report shows a breakdown of the affected polling units. On further examination of the Polling Units by Polling Units (PU by PU) Card Reader accreditation report vis-à-vis EC8As and EC8Bs, I found and same is apparent on the face of the certified true copy of the Polling Units by Polling Units (PU by PU) accreditation, that in 1,738 Polling Units across 309 Wards in 31 Local Government Areas, the total votes allegedly cast on the EC8As and EC8Bs exceed the total number of accredited voters on the PU by PU Card Reader Accreditation report. The total votes indicated to have been cast in the affected polling units were- 790,073 (Seven Hundred and Ninety Thousand and Seventy Three). Appendix AO10 of our report is the breakdown of the affected polling units…”

Report of law enforcement agencies:

Exhibit 12 is the certified true copy of the report of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) duly signed by one Musa Kabiru (DCG) Intelligence. It was produced before the Tribunal upon a subpoena duces tecum. The report was copied to the Chairman of the 3rd respondent (INEC) as well as the 5th respondent (Nigeria Police Force). The NSCDC in its report observed that:

“It has been observed clearly, that the general conduct of the April 11th Gubernatorial and State Assembly Elections was not properly conducted by (INEC) by all standard, it appears INEC to have had a close dealing with the sitting authority in the State. Thuggery, killings, snatching of election materials was above average. Therefore, the general conduct of the Election in April 11th, 2015 Gubernatorial and State Assembly Elections was marred with high level of violence and killings.”

Exhibit 337 is the Certified True Copy of the report of the Nigeria Police on the said election duly signed by AIG B. A. Bolanta, NPM, fwc, supervising AIG, Akwa Ibom State Command. The report is littered with incidences of violence, killings, kidnappings, macheting, snatching of ballot papers, etc. It is instructive to note that the Nigeria Police Force, the 5th respondent in this case, did not defend the petition. Despite being served with processes, the Police declined to defend the ‘election’ at the Tribunal.

Defending the indefensible:

The respondents, especially the 1st and 2nd respondents, have been making certain audacious but misleading statements in the media for reasons best known to them. It would have been tolerable if they had restrained their expositions to the four walls of the Tribunal. They have said among others; that the petitioners could not ‘prove’ their case polling unit by polling unit and that the presumption of regularity in favour of election results was not rebutted polling unit by polling unit. They have equally tried, though unsuccessfully, to discredit the report of the forensic experts and conjure inconsistencies in the petitioners case where there is non.

There are basically two ways of proving a case: by documentary evidence or and by calling witnesses to give oral evidence. It is not the law that a petitioner in an election petition must call witnesses from all the polling units before he can succeed. If it were so, trial of election petitions would never be concluded, especially in the present legal regime that mandatorily requires election tribunals to determine cases within of 180 days. As a matter of fact, the petitioners in this case exceeded expectations by calling 52 witnesses given the limited time they had and the mountain of compelling documentary evidence they tendered before the Tribunal. Exhibit 340 is the joint report of the forensic experts engaged by the petitioners. This is a report with 10 voluminous appendices. The report is so detailed that it highlighted frauds and Irregularities in almost all the polling units in the State.

There is also Exhibit 317 (the polling unit by polling unit accreditation data for the whole State), among other documents. These documents will speak for themselves. It should be noted that they are two ways of discrediting expert evidence. The first and most potent is by calling another expert. The second is by discrediting the experts under cross examination. The 1st and 2nd respondents despite being unjustly allowed by INEC to also scan ballot papers in an attempt to delay and frustrate the petitioners who were exclusively given this authority by the Tribunal never called their own experts. Whether they respondents counsel had succeeded in discrediting the four experts who testified for the petitioners is left for the Tribunal to decide. Suffice it to say that the respondents cannot achieve through the media what they woefully failed to achieve at the Tribunal. Like Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN succinctly stated on Thursday October 8, 2015; presumption of regularity cannot arise when there is irregularity.

What the respondents have refused to admit in media trial is that this is a case where the petitioners called a total of 52 witnesses and tendered 360 Exhibits. On their part, all the respondents called just 27 witnesses without tendering a single document throughout the trial except the Permanent Voters Card of their witnesses. Even INEC that conducted the so called election did not tender a single document. The only attempt they made to tender a document in defence was when they brought 7 big bags of purported Incident Forms which was never tendered.

Conclusion:

Our democratic process will not meet global standards if people rig elections with impunity. This is one case that is at the heart of the Nigerian judiciary. Justice Is on trial. It is a battle between the forces of light and darkness. I strongly believe that this case will be determined on the merits and not based on technicalities. People lost their lives during the so called election. They deserve justice. This case cannot be reduced to a contest between APC and PDP. It is about posterity and the verdict of history. May God Almighty guide the three eminent Judges in this case and give them the wisdom to deliver not just judgment but justice.

I say fiat justitia ruat caelum (let justice be done though the heavens fall).

Inibehe Effiong can be via:

[email protected]

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