Listen to article
The election petition tribunal, sitting in Umuahia, Abia State on Wednesday, continued hearing of a petition brought by Ambrose Okechukwu Ahiwe challenging declaration of Alex Otti as winner of the keenly governorship election.
The Eastern Updates reports that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) opened and closed its defence by calling only one witness, Nkemjika Kelechi Okere, who served as electoral officer for Obingwa Local Government Area.
He adopted his written deposition and relied on the same as his evidence, conceding that exhibit P188 before the court was the authentic result sheet for Obingwa council.
However, in a sudden twist and in the same breath, he denied the same exhibit P188 (Obingwa council result) was ever rejected, taken to INEC headquarters in Abuja and declared after three days by the state Returning Officer, Nnenna Otti.
Under cross-examination by the petitioner’s counsel, Okere was reminded that Otti brought a result from Abuja which was not signed by any party agent and declared the same as Obingwa council result after three days.
The witness, however, said it was not true. At that point, there was a loud murmuring in the court because the counsel’s submission is a known fact not only to Abians but also to Nigerians as a whole and those present in court found it strange that an INEC official would attempt to deny that fact.
Pressed further under cross-examination, the witness agreed that political parties observed collation and were allowed to sign the result sheet but the result sheet for Obingwa council was not signed by agents of any political party, including that of the Labour Party (LP).
When shown exhibit P38, Okere acknowledged that it bore signature marks of agents of more than six political parties. He also agreed he was not a polling unit collation officer and could not have been physically present in all the polling units but merely relied on information he obtained from collation officers of the 312 polling units of Obingwa council.
The witness further agreed in his deposition that collation could not hold in Nadiakata/Amairinabua Ward 9 of Obingwa council because of the violence that broke out there but upon return of the state returning officer from Abuja, votes were surprisingly allotted for same Ward 9 where voting could not take place because of violence. He was shown the exhibit and he confirmed to the court that Ward 9 was mysteriously allotted votes on the result sheet (P188). He eventually affirmed that he was not the INEC collation officer for Obingwa council.
In closing his defence J. C. Nnodim, announced that INEC would no longer call any witnesses from the five earlier scheduled to be called.
The tribunal adjourned to today for Governor Otti to open his defence.