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Akpabio versus Ekpenyong: Why INEC witnesses refused to testify

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As parties in the Senatorial contest for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District between Senator Godswill Akpabio and Engr Chris Ekpenyong close their cases over the weekend, revelations have emerged on why witnesses earlier scheduled to testify at the National Assembly elections petition tribunal failed to show up when the matter came up.

The refusal of INEC witnesses to testify at the tribunal is coming on the heels of a leaked audio recording in which INEC Returning Officer for Essien Udim Local Government Area, Dr Olosunde William confirmed his earlier testimony of having been instructed by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Mike Igini to cancel votes of Senator Akpabio.

The audio conversation is between Dr. Williams, an INEC collation officer, and his female friend.

In the conversation, Dr. Williams, who is a star witness of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Election Petitions Tribunal, divulged that Igini ordered him at the INEC office in Uyo to cancel votes garnered by Senator Akpabio during the said election. He confirmed that Akpabio polled over 61,000 votes in Essien Udim Local Government Area of the State.

We gathered that the new leaked audio had sent shock waves across the Commission as the confession indicted Igini and INEC on the roles they played in perpetrating electoral fraud in Akwa Ibom State.

A senior staff of INEC who was billed to testify when the case resumed on Saturday is said to have bluntly told Igini that he won’t go to the tribunal to tell lies and be ridiculed by Senator Akpabio’s Counsel as other INEC staff. The only condition he would appear, we gathered was if he would be allowed to tell the truth of what actually transpired at the election. Igini is said to have expressed the fear that he may become a hostile Witness.

The tribunal was stunned when the Counsel to INEC, Mr Ifeoluwa Ojediran, on Saturday failed to present its witnesses. He said he would rely on Witnesses of other parties.

Ojediran told the Tribunal that INEC had no witnesses to present again and as such, the third Respondent had decided to close its case. He only tendered two documents from the Bar.

As a result of this, the Tribunal chairman, Justice Akanbi, then the 8th of August for the adoption of addresses by Counsels.

Senator Akpabio who was recently screened and cleared by the Nigerian Senate as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is challenging the victory of Senator Ekpenyong as declared by the INEC.

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