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. . . Udom’s wobbling and chequered defence ends crudely

. . . last-minute effort ends in a disaster

Nothing could be more uninspiring than the woeful and sordid defence of Deacon Udom Emmanuel at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo. At its sitting of Thursday, August 22nd2019 the Tribunal again presided over a lack lustre defence which marked the end of an odd legal battle that ended crudely as lead counsel, Assam Assam (SAN) announced that 1st Respondent has concluded his case. Deacon Emmanuel who was a candidate of the PDP is defending his purported victory in a petition filed at the Tribunal by Obong Nsima Ekere, candidate of the APC in the last governorship election. A keen follower of proceedings at the Tribunal, Chief Gabriel Udo commented that it must be a huge relief for Udom and his legal team who from the commencement of their defence have had uneasy and difficult task to secure witnesses in defence of the peoples mandate roguishly handed him by INEC.

It will be recalled that at the end of its proceedings on 25th July 2019, Tribunal adjourned to Monday 29th with specific order for the 1st Respondent to commence defence when the Tribunal does reconvene. Despite 4 solid days of recess, 1st Respondent Counsel Assam Assam (SAN) returned on the said date to seek leave of court for additional 2 days adjournment to 31st July on very flimsy grounds. Though Tribunal Chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu expressed displeasure at the request stressing that time is of essence in election petition matters, he nevertheless granted 1st Respondent application within the spectrum of the 10days allotted by the Tribunal for his defence. The case was accordingly adjourned to Wednesday, 31st July 2019.

Signs that something was amiss and ominous became apparent when the Tribunal resumed sitting on the adjourned date and 1st Respondent commenced his defence with a global witness, Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem who was deployed to tender questionable CTC of collated election results delivered by INEC from the various strata of the election – units, wards, local government and state. The results tendered were incomprehensive and not exhaustive as it did reflect election results for the 2,980 polling units in the state where all results were expected to be generated from. Besides the election results tendered by 1st respondent, it seems no further or additional documents were tendered as exhibit to demonstrate that Deacon Emmanuel won the election in conformity with the Electoral Guidelines.

Since Udom commenced defence on 31st July, he has indulged in a fruitless effort to defend a fraudulent electoral victory purportedly won on the strength of concocted and conspiratorially delivered results. The first 15 witnesses RW1 – RW15 called to testify in his favour tried unsuccessfully to defend election results of their respective units and wards compiled by INEC and tendered by 1st Respondent. These results largely lacking in transparency and credibility has been judiciously attacked and controverted both in content and context by the Petitioner who have shown through multiplicity of evidence via hard exhibits and witness testimonies the fraud and infractions inherent in the results.

Sensing defeat following the robust advocacy and legal representation of the Petitioners and having failed to make impactful judicial defence, Udom changed tactics and resorted to assailing the character of APC witnesses in a wilful attempt to water-down the veracity of the petitioner’s witness testimonies. In doing so, 1st respondent went after APC’s PW14 in Oruk Anam, PW15 in Nsit Atai, PW6 in Etim Ekpo, PW3 in Ibesikpo/Asutan, PW37 in Ukanafun and others.

A more vicious attempt to slander the image of petitioners and bring their integrity to disrepute was conceived and hatched when 1st respondent shopped and secured the services of Elder Enefiok Ekefre; a dubious political merchant of old. Elder Ekefre has traversed many political parties and is reputed as a professional witness. The fact is that Elder Enefiok Ekefre was found to be a rogue element as evidenced in his long and chequered political history. Signs of his deviant tendencies manifested quite early and he was expelled by the Party. His attempt to discredit and ridicule APC was thwarted by the vigilance and legal dexterity of petitioner’s counsel.

With no more witnesses on his list to present, Udom embarked on a unilateral journey to procure subpoenaed witnesses without the order of court and knowledge of the petitioner. Notwithstanding petitioners objection and upon leave of the Tribunal, Udom brought-forth as subpoenaed witnesses the trio of Elder Okon Patrick Albert, erstwhile chairman NUJ Akwa Ibom chapter, Ogbole Emmanuel Iyanda, chairman, Arewa Peoples Assembly, Akwa Ibom chapter and Edidiong Udo who claimed to be a forensic and ICT expert. No doubt, Udom intended through these subpoenaed witnesses to lend credence and validate his purported victory by their testimonies. Okon Albert was an accredited INEC election observer and monitoring Agent. He claimed to have traversed 5 LGs on the day of election and adjudged the election free fair and transparent. Same was expected of Ogbole Iyanda who on examination told the Tribunal that he monitored the election in Arewa communities across the state and adjudged the election as free and peaceful. Interestingly, testimony of both witnesses turned out lame and weak; not grounded on the foundation of truth and law. Their testimony was easily quashed at cross examination as their merchandise (lies) kitted in their pouch failed to fly by the alertness and response of petitioner.

The most intriguing of Udom’s hastily subpoenaed witnesses are Mr. Edidiong Udo, the self-styled forensic and ICT expert and Mr. Ikpong Joseph Inyang, INEC presiding Officer (PO) for ward 4, Obot Akara LGA. Their appearance attests to the desperation of 1st Respondent because these witnesses letter of subpoena and/or witness statements were served on the petitioner barely a couple of hours to the witness scheduled appearance. Most importantly, both were engaged by Udom to analyse and controvert the testimony and video evidence tendered by PW44 which showed mass thumb printing of votes at the residence of Senator Chris Ekpenyong on March 9th2019. On cross examination, Edidiong Udo failed to demonstrate his proficiency as an expert in the field of forensic science and ICT. Infact he turned out an impostor and political jobber as he was not conversant with rudiments of his trade and profession. On cross examination, he could not provide answers to demonstrate elementary knowledge expected of a professional in his purported field.

The last-ditch effort made by Udom to defend his deceitful mandate was the appearance of subpoenaed witness Ikpong Joseph Inyang, the INEC PO whom by his words and conduct seem to have attended the Tribunal prepared to lie. The witness on examination tendered unauthenticated and unverifiable INEC documents to the Tribunal. He countered the person and witness testimony of PW44 respecting what happened in unit 005 of ward 4, Obot Akara LGA and averred that one Ifeyinwa Pricilla Ifeanyi (female) was the PO for unit 005 and not the gentleman pointed at in the video as alleged by PW44. On cross examination by petitioner, a supposedly trained INEC PO could not state with clarity the process of accreditation nor the various circumstances that constitutes over-voting hence nullification of results. Witness dismissed as irrelevant questions put to him suggesting situations of over-voting contrary to what is envisaged by the Electoral Act. Petitioner called for 3 sets of exhibits that were shown to the witness to prove that there was no accreditation of voters in the whole of Obot Akara LG. Furthermore, there was over-voting in units 003, 004, 005, 006, 007 and 008 of ward 4, Obot Akara which he presided over as INEC staff and to vitiate his lies that election was free and fair in the LG. Witness was challenged and urged to produce for the attention of the Tribunal statements of oath of neutrality consistent with INEC guidelines for each of the POs and APOs listed in exhibits RS 27 and 28 otherwise described as plain paper by petitioner to ascertain the source and genuineness of the exhibits. That nailed the fortune and future of a mercantile witness; an INEC staff who ought to be an impartial umpire but was seen in words and conduct exuding lies for a pittance.

Ikpong Inyang was visibly confused and disoriented at the end of the cross examination to the extent that he lost consciousness and couldn’t get out of the witness box when asked by the Tribunal chairman to do so.

That brought to an abrupt end the ill-prepared and chequered defence of Udom Emanuel who as authoritatively reported has been deserted for his “evostic” tendencies.

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