26th August, 2015
Former governor of Akwa Ibom state and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio has raised an objection to the tendering of forensic reports on materials used for the Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district election.
The tribunal had on May 8, 2015, granted the petitioners request to inspect, copy and scan election materials used in the disputed March 28, 2015 Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial election.
Raising his objection before the Justice Goddy Anunihu led Akwa Ibom State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal on Monday, Akpabio, through his counsel, Offiong Offiong, in a counter affidavit dated and filed on August 22, 2015, said the petitioners did not list the forensic expert as one of the witnesses to be called upon to testify and that allowing the expert now amounts to trying to amend the petition. He argued that time is of essence and allowing an additional witness will take up the time of trial.
Also, counsel to the 2nd respondent, Tochukwu Nweke, in a nine paragraph counter affidavit dated August 21, 2015, said the law demands the petitioner to list all witnesses and documents or file same within 21 days of the declaration of election results.
He averred that the forensic report was not listed and that the petitioners only asked for permission to call additional witness and not leave of court to file the forensic report. He prayed the tribunal to refuse the application in it’s entirely.
Similarly, counsel to 3rd respondent, Adekunle Adesanya, in a written address dated August 25, 2015, aligned with the submissions of the 1st and 2nd respondents counsel, insisting that though the petitioners had in Paragraph 29, page 8 of their petition told the tribunal that they will be inviting an expert witness, it failed to list the witness on page 10A of the petition as one of the witnesses to testify.
He insisted that any attempt to introduce the expert witness now runs contrary to paragraph 14(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act.
Speaking earlier, counsel to the petitioner, Chief Assam Assam, told the tribunal that his intention to call in the forensic expert to tender the report is in respect to his application for leave of court to call in additional witness dated August 8, 2015 in fulfilment to the earlier order of the tribunal on May 8 and June 1, 2015 in which the tribunal ordered the petitioners to inspect, copy and scan election materials used in the March 28, 2015 Akwa Ibom North West senatorial election.
Assam’s permission to tender the report was supported by an eight paragraph affidavit and written address in compliance with the rule of practice, and a certified copy of written statement on oath certified by secretary of the tribunal as well as the report sought to be tendered.
“The evidence sought to be adduced are evidence ordered by the tribunal for the inspection at INEC office in Uyo. The facts upon which this evidence is to be adduced has been pleaded in paragraph 30 of the petition. The inspection was ordered by this tribunal. This application is an application that is meritorious. It was granted by this Honourable tribunal. My Lords, just read your judgement which you gave on this matter. That’s all I ask of you. I hereby submit with the greatest respect that this application be granted so that the earlier order of this court may not have been given in vain,” he submitted.
The tribunal after close of arguments by all counsel told Akpabio to get ready to start his defence on the next hearing date and fixed Wednesday, September 2, 2015 for ruling and continuation of hearing.