Senator Godswill Akpabio was a shadow of himself, Friday at the resumed hearing of the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Uyo.
Akpabio arrived midway into the day’s proceedings, wore a gloomy look as he sat through the last few hours of the tribunal, before quietly smuggling himself into his car, without the usual display common about him.
The former senator’s sober mood, a departure from the jamboree experienced last Monday, prompted most staff at the High Court premises and other onlookers to wonder if the court had delivered judgement already in favour of his opponent, Senator Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Ekpenyong assumed duties at the Senate on Tuesday to a rousing welcome by other senator’s, including the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Recall, that since commencement of prehearing and hearing, Akpabio first appeared at the tribunal on Monday and took his supporters with drums to the streets of Uyo in wild jubilation, blocking the access to the State Government House for over 30minutes, even when his two witnesses on that day appeared to have done little to help his case, with their testimonies admitted largely as hearsay.
Friday’s outing by five more witnesses obviously got more disappointing for the immediate past Senator who quietly returned to his hometown, Ukana, leaving the streets of Uyo as peaceful and calm as he came to meet them.
Akpabio’s five witnesses on Friday, Paulinus Idio, Godwin Etokakpan, Bassey Ekanem, Raymond Udoka, Imoh Akpan, all from Essien Udim Local Government Area, on individual cross examination, could not establish that accreditation was done in the respective units in their wards apart from verbal reports they received from polling units agents which they never verified, since they were not present in all polling units in their wards.
The Ward agent for Okon Ward 8, Paulinus Idio, who claimed he monitored elections in his ward and later received full reports from all 20 Polling Units agents said he could not remember the name of any of the agents in his ward whch he coordinated.
Bassey Ekanem, who could not answer questions from the written evidence deposed under affidavit, confessed before the tribunal that although Akpabio’s Counsel, Sunday Ameh composed it, he was privileged to have been told about the content.
The tribunal Chairman, who has always said that the tribunal would not get time extension on the case, only helped the witness read some words he could not pronounce from the statement to hasten proceedings.
Another witness, Godwin Etokakpan, tried to evade questions regarding non-accreditations observed in the cancelled units of his ward, but was cautioned by the tribunal that documents are sacred and self explanatory, as such he should only tell the court what he has seen on the exhibits, as lies would negatively affect his Counsel .
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the resident electoral officer and returning officer, through their Counsel, Ifeoluwa Ojedirun, reaffirmed before the tribunal that just as witnesses have admitted to non-accreditation in their wards, elections were cancelled due to inconsistencies between number of votes cast and number of accredited voters in various units in the Senatorial District.
INEC further stressed that valid accreditation is compulsory to uphold a valid election.
Akpabio is expected to present his remaining witnesses on June 19th and 20th.