Joe Effiong, Uyo
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has closed its defence on the petition filed against it at the Akwa Ibom State governorship election petition tribunal by the APC governorship candidate in the state, Mr Nsima Ekere, without calling a single witness.
Ekere had joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC in his petition challenging the re-election of Gov Udom Emmanuel at the tribunal.
But after closing its defence on Tuesday, Sylva Ugwuemoh, SAN, who is INEC’s counsel in the case, said the commission did not find it necessary to call witnesses because Ekere and the APC had not given them any reason to have done that.
Speaking to reporters shortly after adjournment on Tuesday, Ugwuemoh said the burden to prove allegations in the petition rested on the petitioners, claiming that they (petitioners) had failed to perform that duty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Earlier at the governorship election petition tribunal, Ugwuemoh had announced that having considered the petition and the evidence presented before the tribunal, there was nothing on the bench for INEC counsel to stress themselves any further.
“We have calmly considered the petition and evidence of the first and second respondents; we are of the opinion that calling additional witnesses is not necessary.
“In the circumstance, we adopt the evidence of first and second respondents and we rest our case on the case of the first and second respondents,” Ugwuemoh added
Counsel to the PDP, Tayo Oyetibo SAN, who had equally closed the defense of the second respondent after calling 11 witnesses, told the tribunal they would not call additional witnesses as evidence given by the PDP witnesses and those of the 1st respondent, were sufficient in the matter.
Counsel to the petitioners, Jibrin Okutekpa, SAN thanked the tribunal, saying he enjoyed the support of his learned brothers in the case.
Also addressing the tribunal, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, counsel to the 1st respondent, registered his gratitude to tribunal for accommodating all the counsels.
The tribunal chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu, noted that the three-man panel enjoyed the cooperation of the counsels, adding that the tribunal “is not surprised by the cooperation because of the capacity of the senior counsel involved.”
Yakubu noted that the position taken by the counsel on final written address is good but for lack of time, he announced five days for filing of written addresses for both petitioners and respondents.
Before adjourning proceeding on the case to September 10, 2019, he had also said the parties had three days to file a reply on point of law.