Akwa Ibom Tribunal; Who is really on the hot seat? #AkwaIbom

Day 61 of the Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Tribunal and the court was inundated with evidence namely INEC’s election materials which included voters register, Forms EC8A and Forms EC8B. It took over 2 hours to bring in the truckload of files and the Respondents had to request for 1.5 hours break at the sight of the mountain of evidence. So the cross-examination did not begin until 4pm. The petitioners’ team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, is leaving no stone unturned to prove their case by using data from the electoral umpire itself. Also a report on the Akwa Ibom gubernatorial election April 11, 2015 was submitted to tribunal by a police officer representing the IG police.

Usoro (SAN) lead counsel for Udom Emmanuel, the PDP candidate of the Akwa Ibom Gubernatorial Elections cross-examines the expert witness Research and Data Analyst, Akinola Davis. He requested for 1.5 hours as opposed to the 10 minutes originally allotted to cross-examine the witness in order to make his case since the cross-examination is technical and would require thorough examination for the benefit of the court. The tribunal granted 45 minutes which each of the respondents still took at least an hour. Usoro (SAN) spent over an hour cross examining the witness but was only able to nitpick at the order of the exhibits and not the content. There was a page missing from one of the exhibits but the petitioners’ lawyer Akinlaja (SAN) was more than willing to provide whatever documents were missing on the spot.  He left the tribunal a bit confused as he dragged on without any major point made, at some point the Judge had to ask ‘okay where are we?’ as the points he was highlighting didn’t really lead to a solid point.

Oyetibo (SAN) the lead counsel for PDP Party, grilled the witness much further as the question- ‘are you an expert?’ led to a drawn out debate on expert versus professional. The witness was adamant that he was a professional and it was left to the court to confer on him the title of ‘expert’. Aside from this, it was a weird argument on how the daughter machine (computers at the polling unit) uploads to the mother machine (central server). At some point the judges had to joke and ask about the grandmother machine. In any case, the witness clearly corrected Oyetibo (SAN) that information does not download but uploads to the central server at the INEC Headquarters. Oyetibo (SAN) also tried to tackle him on how he got the INEC documents and the witness kept stating that the documents were prepared by the names of the persons who signed and certified the documents. Oyetibo (SAN) pressed further by asking how many columns are obtained in the database. The expert didn’t understand the question as such words are not used in ICT but eventually he answered that each database is different but he cannot know exactly what is on the back-end of the INEC server. He listed a few items such as name, VIN number, picture, but reiterated that he cannot state exactly the categories of the back-end server. Oyetibo (SAN) tried to establish that the integrity of the witness opinion is based on his knowledge of the integrity of the material he’s submitting. Oyetibo (SAN) runs out of time as the timer rang a 2nd time after an hour.

Dr. Ikpeazu (SAN) the lead counsel for the 3rd and 4th respondent (INEC and the REC) definitely gave the witness the toughest time but not without indicting the electoral umpire he’s representing. Dr. Ikpeazu (SAN) asks the witness if he recounted the ballots cast and the witness answered no but adds that this was due to the fact that the election materials were all muddled up with the different elections from the presidential election to the house of assembly election. The witness also adds that this made it impossible to do a total recount as they could only  manage to seperate the ballot papers by election but not by polling unit as they were not preserved in that order.

Dr. Ikpeazu (SAN) asks if the witness relied on the card reader report alone for his analysis and the witness answers no. Dr. Ikpeazu (SAN) proceeds further to ask the witness about incidence forms but the witness directs Dr. Ikpeazu (SAN) back to the INEC manual and the press statement released on April 2, 2015 enforcing the use of card reader.

It was definitely a hot seat as the witness at some point had to be badgered by the petitioners Counsel to calm down and simply answer the question without over explaining. But with mountain of evidence from the primary source INEC showing not only major discrepancies between the card reader and the results sheet but also on the preservation of election results. It begs the question- who is actually on the hot seat.



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