Former governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio on Saturday told the tribunal that he is not yet ready to open his defence before the tribunal. But his request for a one week period of grace by his counsel, Paul Usoro, to enable him get his witnesses ready to testify was objected to by counsel to the petitioner, Chief Assam Assam (SAN).
The All Progressive Congress candidate for North-West Senatorial district, Chief Inibehe Okori had approached the National Assembly tribunal challenging conduct of the election and declaration of Godswill Akpabio as winner.
The tribunal chairman, Justice Goddy Anunihu, then ordered Akpabio to open his defence on September 9, 2015 or face the consequences.
The tribunal had earlier ruled that the petitioners cannot tender their forensic report as they failed to list the name of the witness among those they intended to call at the time of filing the petition. The tribunal said the relief sought could not come at this stage of the trial as it was brought outside the pre-hearing session, even though the evidence sought to be tendered was not ready both at the time of filing the petition and at the pre hearing session.
The tribunal had earlier granted the petitioners, Chief Inibehe Okori and the All Progressives Congress (APC) leave for the inspection of election materials used in the conduct of the March polls.
According to the forensic report by a forensic expert and data analyst, Abdullahi Dauda, the election that brought about the over 450,000 votes upon which Akpabio was declared winner was “defective both to science and commonness because it was practically impossible for the number of voters who were accredited to have produced the number of votes counted during the inspection, let alone produce the number of votes INEC declared for the election”.
The report read in parts, " From our inspection, analysis and examination, 205,519 accredited voters are incapable of producing 333,528 ballots, and could certainly not cast the 443,363 votes announced as the total votes cast at the said election. I found a total of 91,502 ballot papers from the seven local governments with multiple thumb prints in favour of PDP in the ballot papers made available to us by INEC".
Dauda in the report added that a total number of 333, 528 ballot papers were brought for counting, while they were only allowed to scan 235,817 ballot papers which were the ballots from seven local government areas out of the 10 local government areas in the senatorial district.
"For the result as announced to be in compliance with the guidelines for the said elections, the number of votes announced, the number of ballots counted and the number of voters accredited to vote at the said election must be equal", he stated.
The report stated that the inspection of materials used in the election of the 28th of March 2015 in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District was “literarily frustrated by incessant interference by the PDP observers, downright refusal by the Akwa Ibom State INEC staff in Uyo who frustrated moves to scan the ballot papers”.
He added: "When the ballot papers were eventually brought, they were not bundled and presented to us by polling units as outlined above, and the ballot papers for the separate elections (i.e. presidential, national assembly, gubernatorial and house of assembly which were held on separate days and separate months) were mixed together in every single bag from every LGA provided to us by the Akwa Ibom State INEC. As a result, the mixed ballot papers in each bag provided first had to be sorted by separating them by LGA, then counted manually by LGA before any scanning was allowed to commence. To further compound the issue, the ballot papers were wet, mutilated and in such poor condition. In fact, ballot papers in some of the bags were so wet that my team and the INEC staff had to dry them out in the sun in order for them to be scanned. This accounts for why we could scan ballot papers from only seven of the ten local government areas though we were able to sort and count all the ballots from the ten local government areas of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District used during the said election".
Continuing, Dauda in the report said, "The other major setback was the fact that INEC refused to furnish us with the voters registers used during the elections and denied us access to inspect the incident forms which were filled by the voters when their accreditation failed at the stage of authentication after the stage of verification. We are therefore unable to analyze the data on those documents as part of this report".
He said that at the end of the physical inspection exercise at INEC office in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in the presence of INEC Legal & ICT staff, Department of State Security (DSS) operatives and representatives of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their counsel, the number of ballot papers counted per local government was as follows: ABAK 35,787, ETIM EKPO 35,250, IKONO 22,240,IKOT EKPENE 25,442, OBOT AKARA 25,637, ORUK ANAM 49,715, UKANAFUN 41, 746, INI 20,864, ESSIEN UDIM 55,653, and IKA 21,194, which brought the total number of ballot papers to 333,528. Of the ten LGA, Dauda said he was only able to scan the ballot papers from seven LGAs which included ABAK 35,787, ETIM EKPO 35,250, IKONO 22,240, IKOT EKPENE 25,442,OBOT AKARA 25,637, ORUK ANAM 49,715 and UKANAFUN 41,746, bringing the total number of scanned ballot to 235,817.