The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Thursday, began the process of defending the outcome of the governorship election it conducted in Rivers State on April 11.
The electoral body opened its defence before the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja by producing one of its electoral officers that conducted the election to testify before the tribunal.
The witness, Mr. Ebikoru Tebekaemi, told the tribunal that he was the electoral officer that superintended over the governorship election at Obio-Akpor Local Government Area in Rivers State.
He told the tribunal that contrary to the evidence of witnesses that were produced by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its gubernatorial candidate in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, there was no incident of ballot snatching or multiple thumbprinting of ballot papers at Obio-Akpor.
Asked by counsel to the petitioners, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), if he was aware that there was a widespread rigging and hijacking of electoral materials by armed thugs, the witness said he was not aware that such incident occurred.
He insisted that election was duly conducted in 15 out of 17 wards in the local government area, saying, “it was only at ward 12 and 13, which is Rumuigbo and Rumokuta, that election did not take place.”
Under cross examination by counsel to the petitioners, the witness said he was not also aware that people were seen at a football pitch thumb-printing ballot papers in favour of Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Besides, the witness told the tribunal that from his record, a total of 304,745 voters were accredited at the local government area, adding that only a total number of 40,481 voters were accredited with the Card Reader.
When he was asked by counsel to the PDP, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), if it was true that lack of electoral materials marred the governorship poll, the witness said he could only give evidence with regard to Obio-Akpor which was under his control.
“But I can confirm that sufficient electoral materials were distributed across Obio-Akpor and other parts of Rivers State during the governorship election,” the witness added.
Among the exhibits that were tendered before the tribunal by the witness included a copy of the election result sheets from Obio-Akpor Local Government.
Meanwhile, the Justice Suleiman Ambrusa-led tribunal has adjourned till Friday to enable INEC to produce more witnesses.
It will be recalled that the petitioners closed their case on Wednesday after they called a total of 58 witnesses that testified that the election was marred by violence and widespread irregularities.
APC and its governorship, Dakuku Peterside, are challenging Wike’s election as governor of the state in the April 11 governorship election conducted by INEC in the state.