The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Saturday, closed its defense in the petition by Chief Godswill Akpabio challenging the election of Senator Chris Ekpenyong for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
At the resumed sitting of the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Uyo, Cousel to INEC, Ifeoluwa U. Esq exhibited documents containing names of INEC Adhoc Staff, Returning Officers and Collation Officers in Essien Udim LGA, which were admitted and marked as Exhibits R603 and R603A.
On presentation of Witnesses, Ifeoluwa said “We would rely on evidences already presented by witnesses which are in line with INEC guidelines. We would not bother this Tribunal with further Witnesses”
Recall, that among the list of Witnesses for the First and Second Respondents are INEC Presiding Officers, Supervisory Presiding Officers and a Returning Officer, who had earlier testified.
Reacting, Justice A. W. Akanbi appreciated Ifeoluwa and other Counsel for their ‘indescribable cooperation’.
He also announced August 1st and 6th for filing of Written Address by Respondents and Petitioners respectively.
Counsel to Senator Ekpenyong and the PDP, Uche Njoku and Solomon Umoh SAN, prayed for extension of time, as five days are too limited for filing of Written Address by Respondents.
Umoh particularly stressed that he had cooperated with the Tribunal to limit his number of Witnesses to close his case earlier.
“My lords, I respectfully pray that we should file on Friday instead of Thursday. Giving us five days would rather be unfair to us to file our Written Address. We have other Petitions we are handling too. My lords would bear witness that I even limited my number of Witnesses to close my case early”, Umoh said
Ifeoluwa opined that according to the Pre-hearing report, the Tribunal had agreed to give seven days to Respondents and five days to Petitioners for filing of Written Address.
“My lords, in the Pre-hearing Report which My lords gave, seven days were to be given for filing of Written Address and five days for the Petitioners. It is also written here that My Lords would adhere to the report strictly”, Ifeoluwa posited.
Responding, the Tribunal Chairman said “We had already considered all what Petitioners and Respondents would say.
“While thanking you for your cooperation, we are also appealing that our hands are tied. We don’t want to say our legs are tied too. We have mountains of documents to go through.
The tribunal chairman furthered that, “We placed this Petition as number 7 and 9 on our list to enable us hasten it. No other Petition has enjoyed that particular benefit and you’ve seen the level we have come. We need time to go through those mountains of Exhibits and Documents we have and you know we have other petitions to attend to”
But in arguing further, Solomon Umoh SAN said, “My lord, but the Petitioners have their five days and we are also given five days to file our Written Address”.
Addressing Counsel to the Petitioner, the Tribunal Chairman said “Learned Senior Counsel Ameh, in order to be fair to the Respondents, we were to give you five days to file your written address but we have agreed to subtract one since we have subtracted two from them. We just hope to hear you say you’d file on that day”
Responding, Ameh said “My Lords, I would be responding to three solid addresses from the Respondents. I am sorry I cannot file on Monday”
Umoh retorted ” My lord, I like seeing my learned friend in this mood. When I was talking about my own, he was smiling. Now, just a little pinch from my lords and his face has changed”
After calm had returned to the Tribunal, the Chairman, in the interest of Justice announced August 1st and 5th for filing of Written Address by Respondents and Petitioners respectively and August 8, 2019 for filing of Reply on Point of Law.
The Tribunal adjourned to August 8, 2019 for adoption of Written Address.