From Joe Effiong, Uyo
An Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Uyo on Monday adjourned the case between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Professor Ignatius Uduk.
The court presided over by Justice Archibong Archibong said the adjournment became necessary as prosecution counsel to INEC did not include his witness’ statement.
Professor Uduk, who was the Returning Officer at Essien Udim state constituency in the 2019 general election, was said to have allegedly declared and published false election results during the 2019 State House of Assembly elections.
He was arraigned under charge number HU/240c/2020, on a three-count charge bordering on the abandonment of duties and generation of false scores on form EC BE (II) on March 10, 2019, at the INEC office in Afaha Ikot Ebak during the State House of Assembly elections; announcement and publication of false election result; and lying on oath at the inception of the election petition tribunal.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Barr Abasiodiong Ekpenyong, the defence counsel to Uduk, said shortly after adjournment, that the INEC came to the court unprepared which was dully observed by the judge.
Ekpenyong, who accused the INEC of always coming to court unprepared, said his client remains innocent of all charges until proven otherwise.
‘Today was for indefinite hearing. The prosecutors filled in their witness but before he began, the lead counsel indicates interest to substitute charges by way of amendment. He came unprepared and it was obvious when my lord observed that his house was not in order.
‘I literally had to help him put his house in order from my own house. They have now sought the vacation of tomorrow which was the earlier date for them to now prepare and we pray he(prosecution counsel) comes back on the fixed date prepared.
‘This was the same case the prosecution opted a bench warrant against the accused and was granted. The accused person remains Innocent He came to court early enough to defend himself.
‘But like we all knew what was in the other card, they came unprepared just like the would always come unprepared,’ he said.
The prosecution counsel to INEC, Barr Kpoobari Sigalo, said charges filed against the accused person needed a minor amendment in the process of which the team discovered that the written statement of the witness was missing.
‘We came today for hearing of the matter. We actually filed our charge before the court but looking at the charges we discovered that there was a need for minor amendment of the charge.
‘And in the process, we discovered that the written statement of the witness was not in the charge, so have to go back and put our house together in preparation of the fixed date.’
Reacting to the accusation from the defence counsel, Sigalo said: ‘We came fully prepared, you can see our witness was in court, only that the written statement of the witness was not in the file, we thought that those things were intact only for us to discover this morning that it was not.’
Justice Archibong adjourned the case to January 13 and 14 for indefinite hearing.