A former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has raised an objection to the tendering of a forensic report on materials used for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial district election.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the senatorial zone, Chief Inibehe Okori, is challenging the declaration of Akpabio as the winner of the March 28 poll.
The tribunal had, on May 8, 2015, granted the petitioner’s request to inspect, copy and scan election materials used in the disputed Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial election.
In his objection before the Justice Goddy Anunihu-led Akwa Ibom State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal on Tuesday, Akpabio, through his counsel, Offiong Offiong, in a counter affidavit filed on August 22, 2015, said the petitioners did not list the forensic expert as one of the witnesses to be called upon to testify.
He argued that allowing the expert at this time would amount to trying to amend the petition.
The argued that time was of essence and allowing the additional witness would eat away the time of trial.
Counsel for the second respondent, Tochukwu Nweke, in a nine-paragraph counter affidavit dated August 21, said the law demands the petitioner to list all witnesses and documents or file same within 21 days of the declaration of election results.
He argued that the forensic report was not listed and that the petitioners only asked for permission to call additional witness and not leave of court to file the forensic report.
He prayed the tribunal to refuse the application in it’s entirely.
Counsel for the third respondent, Adekunle Adesanya, in a written address dated August 25, aligned with the submissions of the first and second respondents’ counsel, saying though the petitioners had, in Paragraph 29, page 8 of their petition, told the tribunal that they would invite an expert witness, they failed to list the witness on page 10A of the petition as one of the witnesses.
He insisted that any attempt to introduce the expert witness now would run contrary to paragraph 14(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act.
Speaking earlier, counsel for the petitioner, Chief Assam Assam, told the tribunal that his intention to call in the forensic expert to tender the report was in respect of his application for leave of court to call in additional witness dated August 8, 2015.
He added that this was in fulfilment of the earlier order of the tribunal on May 8 and June 1, 2015, in which the tribunal ordered the petitioners to inspect, copy and scan election materials used in the March 28, 2015 Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial election.
Assam’s permission to tender the report was supported by an eight-paragraph affidavit and written address in compliance with the rule of practice, and a certified copy of written statement on oath certified by secretary of the tribunal as well as the report sought to be tendered.
The tribunal after close of arguments by all counsel told Akpabio to get ready to start his defence on the next hearing date and fixed Wednesday, September 2, 2015, for ruling and continuation of hearing.