From Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia
Two, out of the five witnesses who testified at the Abia North Rerun Election Petition Tribunal, in Umuahia, yesterday, confirmed testimonies of their predecessors that it was characterised by violence and snatching of ballot boxes.
The witnesses reiterated that election in Arochukwu Local Government Area, hometown of Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the March 23 senatorial election was marred by violence and thumb printing by his supporters.
The two witnesses, Onyekachi Daniel Okereke, from Amuvi village and Emmanuel Sunday from Obinkita village both in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State served as agents of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), who witnessed the unprecedented action of their opponents during the exercise.
The duo and two other witnesses from Isuikwuato told the tribunal that there was no election in parts of Arochukwu and Isuikwuato as Ohuabunwa’s agents chased away voters and thumbprinted ballot papers as well as stuffed them for him. The two men also said there was neither accreditation nor voting because “the thugs did not allow people to freely exercise their franchise.”
Onyekachi said “though I ran away from the polling centre, I watched what they did from a distance.”
Giving their testimonies yesterday at the tribunal, the five witnesses, Nwachukwu Henry Bobby, Ifeanyi Martins Oluaka, Emmanuel Sunday and Onyekachi Ijeoma, who served as PPA Ward agents, affirmed there was no election or accreditation in the area they supervised.
They told the tribunal that their polling agents’ reports all over the wards during the rerun bore uniform testimony that Ohuabunwa’s agents timidated and harassed voters, especially PPA agents and supporters.
Earlier, the forensic expert who was the first to mount the witness box could not testify because his testimony was opposed by counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) on the ground that “they were served on Saturday and it was not possible to get in touch with INEC to confirm what is contained in his deposition.”
Counsel to the petitioner, Kelvin Nwufo (SAN) had opposed the first respondent’s counsel, Mike Onyeka’s objection to the testimony of the forensic expert on the ground that it was served to their Umuahia office whereas their lead counsel was based in Aba.
He argued that it was their internal confusion and not the concern of the tribunal, a position the tribunal agreed with.
“But the adjournment was made at the instance of the second to ninth respondents being the body that conducted the election that they wanted to confer with whoever that was in charge with those INEC documents that were brought by the forensic expert.”
Tribunal chairman, Justice James Abundaga, in his ruling said, “the balance of justice weighed in favour of adjournment, thus, the testimony of the forensic expert was adjourned to today.