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C'River Tribunal: Witnesses Give Conflicting Evidence For John Gaul

C'River Tribunal: Witnesses Give Conflicting Evidence For John Gaul

Continuation of hearing on the petition filed by Mr John Gaul Lebo, immediate past speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly has been fixed for July 5, when the former speaker is expected to bring his last witness.

The following day, on July 6, Dr Alex Egbona who defeated him at the polls to secure a seat at the House of Representatives for Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency, will open his defence.

The former speaker, a lawyer, is asking for two things from the tribunal-to be declared winner of the election or that the election be annulled on the grounds that there were irregularities.

But his witnesses appear not to be consistent in their testimonies. They are contradicting themselves. In fact, one of the witnesses even told the court that he was not the one who swore to the oath that was before the tribunal.

Penultimate week, one of the witnesses, Dr Igile had told the tribunal that it was Egbona who hijacked the election results and submitted same to INEC, but at the resumed hearing last Wednesday, another witness, Ajah Francis Ajah countered that position.

He said it was the collation officer for Yakurr that took the results to INEC, while he accompanied them in another vehicle. Ajah testified in his capacity as the party's collation agent.

Ajah, a chartered accountant, did not look organised for a better part of the tribunal session. He fidgeted trying to answer some of the questions put to him during cross examination by counsel to Egbona, Mr Adebayo Oba Adebabu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. With the SAN to defend Egbona's victory were Bola Rasaq Gold, Prince W. Ekpe and Mr Chuks Agube.

Before the day's business began, the tribunal had to adjourn for about 30 minutes, to enable Gaul and his team get ready for appearance. While the lawyers were in court, their witnesses were nowhere to be found.

When the tribunal reconvened, the tribunal chairman, Justice Vincent Agbata had to warn them not to delay the tribunal again by that kind of conduct, as he would not take it kindly.

 This is how the hearing went, when Ajah mounted the witness box, to be cross-examined by the SAN.

Yes, I was the local government collation agent for the 23/2/2019 election.  I served as collation agent for Abi LGA. I was the only collation agent for Abi LGA.

I put it to you that one Dr. Igile was also a local government collation agent for Abi.

 No my Lord

Will I be right to say that you are familiar with election procedures

Yes my Lord

Card readers are used only for accreditation purpose

Yes my Lord

You were a Special Assistant to the governor on debt management

It is not true that I was a special assistant to the governor but a special adviser. I am a political appointee.

When did you stop being special adviser?

I stopped being special adviser on 28/5/2019

Card Readers are never used at collation center?

They are used at collation centres to query what was translated from polling units.

Will you be surprised that what you have just said is not contained in INEC guidelines?

I don't know

I suggest to you that the entire statement you made on oath is false.

My statement is true.

It is part of your statement that there were wrong allocation of votes. Please refer to paragraph.10(7) now refer to P.168 on the document. PDP scored 93 and not 121 that you claimed.

Yes my Lord. That is what is recorded here.

Go to paragraph 10(2) on polling unit 011. It is your evidence that your party scored 185 votes and that only 85 was recorded. Now page 167 of your pleadings, item 14. The score of PDP is 85 and not 185 that you claimed.

(After taking sometime and trying to gaze at the document for a while)It is faint. But 85 is written in words.

85 votes is written against PDP

I see 185 and 85 for PDP.

Item 3 of paragraph10(3), you claimed in your evidence at that PDP scored 111 votes but that at the collation centre, 65 votes were recorded. Now, go to page181, confirm that what was taken to the collation centre actually 64 and not 111.

Yes my Lord

You claimed that 69 votes were unlawfully deducted. Now go to page 171 of the petition

No figure written, it was altered into a figure that is not clear to me in form EC 8A(2)

Do you have form EC 8B(2)?

I don't have it here my Lord.

Take a look at this document. Is that form EC8B? The result for the collation centre for the ward

Yes it is one of my ward.

Then confirm to this court that 61 votes is recorded on that document form EC 8b(2) for Polling unit.008 (Ebor playground)

Yes my Lord

Once the SAN was done, the INEC counsel took over and cross examined Ajah thus:

Apart from Abi/Yakurr federal constituency where APC won, all other elections was won by PDP.

(Objection raised by counsel for the petitioner, Mr Mr D.D.Ujong. The tribunal upheld the objection).

Security personnel where present during the conduct at the election at the collation centre

Yes my Lord

It was the collation officer for Abi LGA who took the collated results to Yakurr (Ugep)

Yes my Lord. He took the result to the federal collation centre.

And you followed him to the federal collation centre

Yes, I followed him to Ugep.

Do you know one Dr. Igile?

Yes my Lord

It could not have been another person that took the results to Ugep

Yes my Lord

There was not disruption at the collation centre. Yes or no

There was

Do you have any evidence to demonstrate the fact that you made a report to INEC?

Yes, I have but not with me here.

You were not at the Polling units you mentioned at pages 8 and 10(of the petition)

I was not there

You were not the PDP agent in phase polling units mentioned

Yes, I was not, but the unit results were emptied to me as the PDP collation agent.

So what you said in your pages 8 and 9 were reported to you?

Yes and accepted it to be true

How many polling units do we have at Ekureku?

They are 18

Your conclusion that card reader was not used was reported to you?

I discovered it from the card reader

You were in custody of the smart card reader?

No my Lord

Did you hold any card reader in your hands

No my Lord

You didn't read the reaction of the 3rd respondent (INEC)

I didn't read it my lord

In your paragraph 14, page 78, you said the electoral officer perpetrated irregularities? What will be your reaction if the 3rd respondent says it not so?

I don't know

The Local Government result for Abi/Yakurr federal constituency, particularly for Abi, did you sign it?

No I did not sign the result for PDP, thought I was supposed to sign it.

Your allegation of votes inflation were not correct.

My Lord, they are correct.

The second witness for the day gave his name as Mr  Lawson Enang, a public servant.

Under cross examination by Adebabu, he said: 

On the 15th day of March, 2019, I made a written statement on oath. I adopted my written statement

You voted during the election?

Yes I did

Before voting, you passed through accreditation?

Yes my Lord

So were all others in your polling unit where you voted

Yes my Lord

What is the name of your polling unit?

Primary school, Ikpalegwa, Imabana II

By your statement, your own polling unit is at 003.

Yes my Lord

Will I be right that in that your unit, there was an agent?

Yes my Lord

What is his name?

Mboto and he is still alive.

He was the one that reported to you that card reader was set aside?

Yes my Lord

As collation agent you have nothing to do with card reader machine

I did not handle any card reader.

Done with him, the INEC counsel took over:

Did the PDP agent deployed at polling unit 003 report to you that accreditation preceded voting.

There was no accreditation in unit 003.

What you just said is not in your written deposition?

My statement implies that there was no accreditation.

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