Joe Effiong, Uyo
Senator Chris Ekpenyong of Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district has urged the National Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal to dismiss Senator Godswill Akpabio’s petition challenging his election, on the basis of incompetence.
The former deputy governor also argued that the reliefs sought by Chief Akpabio, differed from the grounds of his petition.
Ekpenyong through his counsel, Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN) in his written address, said that out of ten local government areas that make up the senatorial district, witnesses were called by the petitioner for only two local government areas.
He also argued that the petitioner could not substantiate his claims, as the depositions he relied on had no evidential value.
“My lord, you remember each and every one of his witnesses saying my deposition is made up of what I saw and what I was told.
“On the authority of Gungiri vs Nyan, the Supreme Court said, if a witness does not distinguish in his deposition, between what he heard and the things he saw, that such depositions have no evidential value.
He insisted that all the witnesses could not differentiate between what they saw and what they heard, and that responsibility cannot be that of the court.
“The depositions were chorusing one another. Why would A who was in Jericho have an identical situation with B who was in Jerusalem?”
Chief Agabi averred further that “the relief of being declared the winner is only available to a petitioner who pleads majority of lawful votes.
“In this petition, the petitioners are not seeking nullification of the election, but rather they are seeking to be declared the winner. Reliefs must flow from the grounds, and their ground does not avail them.”
Agabi insisted that Akpabio’s situation where no single agent was called, yet all the witnesses alleged malpractice at the polling units, could be likened to Algebra where one is expected to show the formula and process he used in arriving at his conclusion.
On his part, Solomon Umoh, SAN, counsel to the PDP told the tribunal to dismiss the petition due to the absence of polling witness to give life to the claims of the petitioner.
Umoh maintained that “a petitioner who brings his case on fraudulent cancellations must establish two ingredients, that there were cancelations, alterations or mutilations in the electoral document and that the cancelation, alteration or mutilation were dishonestly made in a view to falsify the result of the election.”
He said that the effective way to unravel the truth was based on the integrity of Form EC8A, the unit result, where the votes are generated.
The PDP counsel wondered why the petitioner failed to present any unit witness before the tribunal, thereby making Form EC8As to appear helpless.
Citing various court precedents, Umoh argued further that “in any matter of this magnitude, polling unit agents must be witnesses to how they were produced and must be signatories to them, otherwise it has a doubtful and suspicious origin.”
INEC counsel, Robert Emukpoeruo, citing the poor foundation of the petition urged the tribunal to dismiss it completely.
The INEC counsel maintained that the petitioners were obliged to bring unit results and not just result from the collation centre because their petition claimed that the first respondent did not win by majority of lawful votes.
Mr Emukpoeruo in arguing that votes are not cast at ward or local government collation centres, but at polling units, reasoned that the petitioners ought to have led the tribunal to the polling units.
Counsel to the petitioners, Sunday I. Ameh SAN, averred opposed that the respondents completely misunderstood the case of the petitioners.
According to Ameh, the petitioners case are on the grounds that Senator Ekpenyong was not validly elected by majority of lawful votes and his return was not in compliance with the electoral act.
Responding, the tribunal chairman, Justice A. W. Akanbi, thanked all parties for their cooperation and announced that a date would be fixed later for ruling.