At the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, Abia State on Tuesday, there was a surprising turn of events as the remaining ten witnesses, who were scheduled to testify against the member representing Obingwa-West state constituency at the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Erondu Uchenna Erondu, refused to testify in court.
Mrs. Victoria Onwubiko, the petitioner and candidate of the Labour Party (LP), had filed a suit challenging the victory of Hon. Erondu Jnr in the 2023 general polls. During the previous sitting, Mrs. Onwubiko’s lead counsel had informed the court that they would bring more witnesses to testify on Tuesday and subsequently close their case.
However, during the proceedings on Tuesday, the lead counsel to the petitioner, Barrister Raymond Nkannebe, surprised the court by requesting an adjournment to a later date. He explained that the witnesses they had expected in court had disappeared from the court premises.
The tribunal chairman, Hon. Justice Kutigi, expressed dissatisfaction with the situation, emphasizing the importance of time as the tribunal was handling 15 other cases with limited time to conclude.
Hon. Kutigi warned that such behavior would no longer be tolerated and advised the petitioner to close their case if their witnesses were not forthcoming to avoid unnecessary delays.
Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing to August 3, 2023, to give the petitioner an opportunity to bring their witnesses to court and close their case.
Earlier, on July 14, 2023, seven out of the ten witnesses called by Mrs. Onwubiko to testify against Hon. Erondu Jnr had absconded without giving their testimony.
During cross-examination, one of the witnesses initially alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) register was not used, and the Biomidal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) used in the state constituency election was malfunctioning. However, he later reversed his statement and admitted that the INEC voter register was used, and BVAS functioned properly, as he himself had voted using the system.
Another witness also confessed during cross-examination that there was no mutilation or alteration of exhibits, especially Form EC 8A, which was the result sheet, as he had earlier alleged.
In her suit (EPT/HA/11/2023; Mrs. Victoria Dibunma Onwubiko Vs Hon. Erondu Uchenna Erondu Jnr), Mrs. Onwubiko alleged that Hon. Erondu Jnr was wrongly declared the winner of the Obingwa-West state constituency election and sought the court’s declaration of herself as the rightful winner.
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