APC’S SNR LAWYERS MISSING AS MORE UNREGISTERED VOTERS, UNACCREDITED AGENTS MOUNT WITNESS BOX FOR NSIMA
Supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Tuesday were dazed when they thronged the 2019 governorship election petitions tribunal sitting in Uyo to discover that all senior lawyers had shunned the tribunal, fueling fears that the petition by their governorship candidate, Mr. Nsima Ekere may have been abandoned.
Also, three of the petitioner’s witnesses, including one Godwin Jarkwa, could not validate their statements as they mounted the witness box without their voter’s cards; while others impersonated unit, ward, and local government agents as their names could not be traced to the list submitted to INEC by their party, which was also tendered in court.
The three lead counsels to the petitioner, Jibrin Okutepa SAN, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, Victor Iyanam Esq, as well as Solomon Etuk were conspicuously missing in action, leaving the petitioner at the mercy of two younger lawyers Mr. Bertram Faotu and Doyin Ewedem, a development rather unprecedented.
No explanations were offered by Barr. Faotu who did not seem to be aware that the lead counsels to the petitioner would not be present at the tribunal, as he had to stand in as soon as the tribunal chairman arrived to commence proceedings, with the seats of the senior lawyers in front, vacant until the close of the day’s session.
But the absence of the three lead counsels didn’t stop proceedings as Barr. Faotu called in 10 witnesses.
The witnesses include Orok Anthony Asuquo, Elder Udonsek Ufot Udonsek, Nkantion Patrick Malachy, Nkereuwem Edet Okpok, Thompson Uko, Roland Kingsley Inwang, Ikott John Eyo, Asuquo Nkereuwem Okon, Godwin Jarkwa, and Odudu Akpan Ukpe.
One of the witnesses, Mr. Asuquo Nkereuwem Okon fumbled when he told the tribunal that there were 7067 registered voters in his polling unit.
Again, Mr. Thompson who stated in his witness statement that there was no election in his polling unit contradicted himself on cross-examination by Counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Tayo Oyetibo SAN, as he admitted that there was an election in his polling unit where he voted.
Another witness, Mr Nkereuwem Edet Okpok was floored during cross-examination by counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sylva Ogwemoh SAN who pointed out to him from the agents’ list submitted by APC to INEC that Assang Ward 1 in Nsit Ibom local government, Unit 007 does not have any name like Nkereuwem Edet Okpok, rather the unit agent for 007 is Etuk Usen.
Consequently, Counsel to Petitioner, Barr Faotu applied for the withdrawal of the witness from the tribunal.
So far, the seeming lack of coordination by witnesses who keep contradicting themselves in the dock has been the major challenge of APC in the ongoing legal tussle, warranting Okutepa(SAN) on one of such occasions to openly express his disappointment with one of them.
Some analysts have expressed concern that the seeming abandonment of the case may not be unconnected to the imminent failure of the party at the tribunal following the disjointed witnesses the party has continued to present at the tribunal.