How INEC exposed fake ad hoc staff at election tribunal
There was drama yesterday at the Akwa Ibom Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal as a fake staff of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and video were exposed.Testifying at the tribunal yesterday on the matter Nsima Ekere of All Progressives Congress (APC) instituted against governor Udom Emmanuel of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the latter’s election, INEC staff, Mr. Ikpong Joseph Inyang told the tribunal that a witness, William Ndarake, who was the Petitioners’ (Ekere) 44th witness was an impostor.
Testifying as a subpoenaed witness for the first respondent, Governor Emmanuel, at the resumed sitting yesterday, Mr. Inyang, who was the Supervising Presiding Officer of Ward 4, presented the list of Presiding Officers, Supervisory Presiding Officers, and Polling Unit booklets, and said Ndarake, who claimed to be an INEC ad hoc Staff, is not on any of the lists as an ad hoc staff in the elections.
While in the dock as PW 44, Ndarake claimed that he was an Assistant Presiding Officer in Ward 4, Unit 005 in Obot Akara, and that he was abducted to the house of Senator Chris Ekpenyong and threatened at gunpoint to manipulate election results in support of PDP. He also claimed that he recorded the video of the abduction, with his phone while the gunmen where still threatening to kill him if he fails to cooperate.
But the Inyang revealed that the said Ndarake and another man he claimed was Presiding Officer in the video for Unit 004, Ward 4 in Obot Akara were both impostors.
While being cross examined by counsel to PDP, Uko Udom, the witness said the man the said Ndarake identified as Presiding Officer in the video was also an impostor because the Presiding Officer for that unit was a female National Youth Service Corps member, named Ifeanyinwa Priscilla Ifeanyi. Witness also identified Exhibit RSA564 as the result for Unit 004, which Ifeanyinwa signed as Presiding Officer.
He added that he was given the list of all the officials for Obot Akara Local Government Area and he took attendance as the Supervisory Presiding Officer in Ward 4. His testimony brought to an end the defence by the 1st respondent in the petition, Governor Emmanuel.
Previously, a digital forensic expert, Edidiong Udoh had described the video evidence tendered by the petitioners’ 44th witness, Mr. Ndarake, as a scam stage-managed to mislead the tribunal. Udoh said he based his argument on the fact that the GPS was switched off on the video recording device by the producer of the video to prevent analysts from tracing the location of the event in the video.
The forensic analyst said contrary to Mr. Ndarake’s evidence that the video was recorded under duress with the phone placed on the ground, the video showed scenes recorded by more than one person with the participants fully showing indications of being part of the plot.
“If the phone was placed on the floor, the only angle it would have captured would have been only one point of the roof of the building or one direction of the room, but the video shows activities of what happened even on top of a table and all angles of the room, meaning the device was in motion from the beginning to the end,” he summed up.
Under Cross Examination by counsel to INEC, Sylva Ogwemoh, Udoh said, “From my observation, over three persons were involved in the making of this video apart from PW 44. ”
PW 44 also misled the tribunal by saying he later picked up the phone to continue the recording. All through the video, he is seen seated with legs stretched out and his hands on his thighs. This means the video was done by someone else. The person in front of the green table and the person who begged that his face should not be recorded were in the know of the video recording.
“There was someone who was doing the thumb-printing. It was stage-managed and not done under tension or anxiety like PW 44 claimed.” On cross examination by counsel to the petitioner, Prof. Joash Omopitan, the witness emphasised that “it is impossible for PW 44 to have made this video by himself with his phone like he claimed because he is seen sitting with his hands on his thighs all through. He did not even stand up at any point. As a forensic expert, I’d have traced the location where the video was made from the meta-data-file of the video, but the person who made the video consciously switched off the GPS of the device.
“If the meta-data-file was present, under my forensic examination, I would have seen the date, the time, the location of the scene and even the name of the device in use.”
On further examination on why he didn’t request for the handset used for the recording, Udoh said with his training and expertise, he didn’t need to request for the device which had clearly been obstructed from getting details of the place it recorded. On whether he was paid to carry out the analyses, he said he carried it out free as a voluntary service.He also told the tribunal that the pictures on the wall of the location where blurred, and no amount of analyses could reveal any image on the pictures because of the poor quality of the recording.
Earlier, counsel to the defeated Governorship candidate of the APC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, lost his bid to stop the forensic expert, Mr. Edidiong Udoh, who was subpoenaed by the tribunal.Legal fireworks started when counsel to the petitioner, J.S. Okutepa, apparently sensed that the video evidence analyses would nail the coffin against his client if allowed by the court. The petitioner’s witness, Ndarake had tendered a video, claiming that he recorded an election manipulation scene when he was alleged abducted by PDP’s thugs.
No sooner had Udoh, who was the third witness for the day, stepped into the witness box with a projector already mounted at the court room and set for cross examination, than Ekere’s counsel vehemently objected to the admission of his analyses by the court.
Countering Ekere’s submission, counsel to the PDP, Tayo Oyetibo, counsel to Governor Emmanuel, Chief Solomon Umoh and counsel to INEC, Dr. Solomon Ielanye, had prayed the court to allow the witness testify, maintaining that the evidence he would tender in court was in the interest of justice. In his ruling, the tribunal chairman A. M. Yakubu, discountenanced the objection and argued that the scientific expert be allowed to testify.
Meanwhile, two other witnesses who testified earlier in the day, a former NUJ Chairman in the state, Elder Patrick Albert, and Chairman, Arewa Peoples Assembly (an umbrella body for Northerners, including both Christians and Muslims from the 19 northern states residing in Akwa Ibom, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbole, told the court that the governorship election were conducted peacefully in Akwa Ibom.
Albert admitted that there was orderliness, and there were no incidents of vote buying or molestation of voters at the places he monitored the exercise. The former NUJ boss said he voted at his polling unit in Uyo Local Government Area before he proceeded on media coverage of the exercise with his team from the NUJ in five local government areas, namely Uyo, Ibiono-Ibom, Nsit-Ubium, Ibesikpo-Asutan, and Etinan.
On his part, Ogbole who hails from Benue State, told the tribunal that the election was peaceful, free, and fair in Akwa Ibom State. Ogbole who said he voted and monitored the exercise in his unit, countered the claim of APC governorship candidate, Mr. Ekere, that the exercise was not marred by irregularities. He added that the first respondent could not give evidence on a matter not pleaded by him but by the petitioner.
Governor Emmanuel, through his counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, referred the tribunal to the ruling of the Supreme Court in Igboyim vs Obianke that a respondent could give evidence in a matter pleaded by the petitioner. He prayed that the governorship tribunal sitting in Uyo would not be misled to take wrong steps by his learned friend, Okutekpa.Counsel to INEC, Sylva Ogwemoh, submitted that the right to fair hearing is an issue of law and a right to all. Tribunal Chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu, overruled the objection, saying the witness had to testify in interest of justice. The second respondent, PDP is expected to commence its defence today.