By; VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
A pre-Hearing session in the Election Petition Tribunal in Calabar on Thursday recorded a mild drama as Counsel to the Independent National Election Commission (3rd Respondent) told the tribunal that the commission was unable to present copies of election results sheets as ordered by it in Suit No. EPT/CAL/HR/12/2019 between Innocent Chima Ovat & African Democratic Congress versus Hon Michael Irom Etaba, PDP & INEC.
Lawyers and others present in court expressed surprise when Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, Henry Ituen, Esq informed the Tribunal that the result sheets of the said election were not available as they were destroyed in the field in the course of the said election held on 23rd February 2019.
The Chairman of the 3-man Tribunal, Justice Vincent M. Agbata, controlled his anger over the fact that INEC did not comply with the court order which on Monday the 6th day of April, 2019 granted the candidate of the African Democratic Congress in the Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency seat, in the 2019 General elections, Innocent Ovat, to inspect the Smart Card Reader machines that were deployed in each polling unit during the said election.
Other materials, which the Tribunal Order INEC to release to the petitioner include the certified true copies of Form EC 8A of all the polling units.
The Order, which came from a motion ex-parte, also directed “the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the State to forthwith produce, provide and release to the petitioners, for their own use in this petition, certified true copies of the printout of data of accredited/verified voters of each polling unit as recorded by the smart card readers deployed for the election to the membership of the House of Representatives of Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency.”
The Petitioners counsel, Offiong O. Offiong, Esq informed the Tribunal at the pre-hearing session that the INEC is in contempt of the orders of the Tribunal made on Monday the 6th day of April, 2019 as they have failed to comply with the orders of the Tribunal which, amongst others, compelled & directed them to release and give to the Petitioners, result sheets & other vital documents of the election to the membership of the House of Representatives for Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency.
In his reply, counsel for the INEC, Henry Ituen, Esq informed the Tribunal that “the result sheets of the said election are not available as they were destroyed in the field in the course of the said election”.
The tribunal asked if he had pleaded that excuse about the result sheets in the record of his submissions in court, he answered yes on second thought.
The Tribunal, therefore, concluded the pre-hearing Session in the Petition Suit No. EPT/CAL/HR/12/2019 and adjourned for the report of pre-hearing and commencement of the hearing.