Proceedings at Panel 2 of the State and National Assembly Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia on Tuesday were adjourned abruptly, following an allegation that the petitioner’s exhibits submitted to the panel were missing.
Mr Mike Onyeka, Counsel for the petitioner, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa, who was challenging the declaration of Sen. Orji Kalu as winner of the Abia North Senatorial District, had complained that two certified true copies (CTC) of unit results from Uzuakoli in Bende Local Government Area of Abia tendered as exhibits to the tribunal were missing.
Onyeka had called for the copies allegedly in the custody of the Clerk of the tribunal, one Matthew, while cross-examining a witness in the matter, Mr Chukwuemeka Maduakolam.
However, after a long search, it was reported that the documents could not be found, prompting the panel to rise briefly to decide on the way forward.
Upon resumption, the Chairman of then panel, Justice Cornelius Akintayo, suggested that the tribunal could continue proceeding with the CTC in the possession of the panel members.
The suggestion was politely turned down by Onyeka, who insisted that fresh and clean copies should be produced to replace the missing copies.
He feared that the copies in the custody of the panel could have some alterations, that might be considered objectionable by either of the parties in the petition.
He therefore urged the tribunal to adjourn proceedings until fresh copies were provided.
The chairman acceded to the request and adjourned sitting to Monday, July 22 to enable the panel to get a replacement for the missing exhibits.
Speaking with newsmen on adjournment, Onyeka said that the bone of contention had to do with the evidence concerning unit results from Bende council area.
He alleged that votes in Bende LGA were inflated in favour of the All Progressives Congress.
He said that it was discovered that after votes were written at the polling units, everything changed at the ward collection centre.
In a reaction, Mr Perfect Okorie, one of the Counsels for Orji, told newsmen that it was ironical that the petitioner’s counsels were raising issues over alleged missing documents.
According to him, “they were the last to have dealings with the documents.”
Okorie opined that it was possible they might have misplaced them while making photocopies.
He expressed concern over the series of “logjam” being experienced in the matter as a result of issues raised by the petitioner’s counsels but said that were free to handle their case the way they pleaded.
Also in an interview with newsmen, Ohuabunwa said that it was unfortunate that documents kept in the custody of the tribunal could get missing.
He, however, expressed confidence that justice must prevail in the matter, no matter how it was delayed.