By Chimezie Anaso
Awka – Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah, Anambra South, on Saturday failed in his bid to stop ICT expert from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from testifying against him at the Anambra Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Awka.
The tribunal had subpoenaed INEC ICT Directorate upon the application of the petitioner, Chief Chris Uba of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to provide some materials and testify in their matter.
When the INEC staff, Mr Ama Agwe appeared on the witness box on July 24, Counsel to Ubah and INEC, both respondents in the petition objected and prayed the tribunal to reject his documents and not allow him to testify.
They argued that he was not among those originally listed to testify in the petition and that his written statement on oath was not done within the 21 days permitted by the electoral act.
George Igbokwe (SAN), counsel to Uba reminded the tribunal that the witness was a product of court order and that not allowing him will amount to denial of fair hearing.
Igbokwe said the objections should be discountenanced and that the court should not reverse itself.
Ruling on the matter at the resumed hearing of consolidated petition No. EPT/AN/SEN/11/2019 on Saturday, the tribunal held that subpoena was a court order similar to writ of summons and must be allowed to testify.
The ruling which was read by Justice Sunday Olorundahunsi, said that the objection could not be sustained as the argument of listing and front loading witnesses and evidences was not possible because INEC could not have easily deposed written statement against itself as a respondent in the petition.
The tribunal further said that the witness being a product of order of court must be allowed to testify as the court could not approbate and reprobate at the same time.
“Tribunal is of the view that the INEC ICT Director be allowed to testify,” it ruled.
In his testimony, Agwe, an Assistant Director, said he was in court on the authority of Director of INEC ICT Department, who was summoned by the tribunal.
The witness tendered documentary evidence, including Smart Card Reader accreditation data for all polling units in Anambra South with accompanying certificate of compliance.
Others were manual for election official 2019 and Regulations and Guidelines for conduct of election 2019.
During his cross examination, Dee Nwigwe, (SAN) Counsel to Ubah, cited portion of the documents tendered which provided for alternative means of accreditation of voters in the event that smart card reader malfunctioned or did not have service.
Nwigwe told the witness to provide evidence that there was service in the entire senatorial zone or that he interviewed the Presiding Officers that worked in the district to ascertain that all went well with functionality of smart card reader machines.
But Agwe, in his oral testimony said that INEC ICT unit monitored the process centrally in a National Situation Control Room where Presiding Officers transmitted accreditation data from smart card reader to a “back end”.
The witness, who was also cross examined by Obinna Adindu, counsel to INEC, said that the commission made a survey of the various places where elections would hold to ascertain the strength of various network services and provided two sim cards of the strongest networks.
“We provided spare card reader machines so that if one failed, the other could be uploaded,” he said.
Three other PDP witnesses, who worked as PDP agents in Nnewi Ichi, Umudim and Uruagu testified to bringing the total of petitioner’s witnesses so far entertained to eight.
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Thelma Okara, adjourned the matter untilto July 29 for further hearing.