By Robert Benson
Hope of the Akwa Ibom State governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Mr Umana Okon Umana calling more witnesses to strengthen his case was dealt a blow on Thursday as the Justices of the Governorship Election Tribunal were told by Mr Umana’s Counsel, Dayo Adelaja, SAN that the Tribunal that Mr Umana and the APC could not bring more witnesses due to “logistic” reasons.
After the cross-examination of seven witnesses at about 2 pm the Tribunal was stunned when Counsel to the Petitioner asked for adjournment as there were no more witnesses to be cross-examined. This was unlike other days when the Tribunal closes the business of the day at about 6 pm. When asked if further cross-examination of other witnesses should be adjourned to the following day, Friday, the Counsel responded that it would still not be possible for Mr Umana to bring witnesses to appear in the Tribunal the following day.
According to the Counsel, it was a herculean task for his client to bring witnesses from Uyo to Abuja and pleaded for time to enable Mr Umana to transport the remaining of his witnesses to Abuja. At the instance of the Petitioner’s Counsel who apologized profusely to the Tribunal, the case was adjourned to Monday, August 3.
So far Mr Umana has presented about 44 witnesses who have been cross-examined by Counsels to Mr Udom Emmanuel, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission , INEC. He had initially listed 648 witnesses to testify. And with just about seven days left for him to present his witnesses, it is left to be seen how far he can go.
According to analysts, conservatively it costs an average of about N200,000 to bring a low profile witness from Uyo to Abuja. This include transport fare, accommodation for at least two nights and a stipend. However, it may cost more to bring high profile witnesses who may demand to stay in a five-star hotel.
It is not certain how much the APC candidate, Mr Umana who had agitated for the Akwa Ibom State Election Petition Tribunal to be relocated from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State to Abuja, may have spent in bringing in witnesses to testify at the Tribunal. But it was obvious that the decision may have taken a toll on him, logistically.
It was observed on Thursday that after the appearance of Atuekong Don Etiebet and Obong Victor Attah as witnesses the previous day, the quality of the witnesses has considerably declined.
For instance at Thursday’s sitting, a witness, Uduak Friday Uko from Etim Ekpo who claimed to be a second year student of the Akwa Ibom State University threw the tribunal into endless laughter with his ungrammatical expressions. At one instance during cross-examination he claimed he “did not saw.”
At the end of his presentation, Mr Adelaja, SAN jocularly apologized for his poor grammar and informed the Tribunal that the witness was studying Animal Science and not English Science, to which the Tribunal was thrown into another round of laughter.