Drama as forensic expert unveils 21,782 multiple votes at C’River tribunal
A FORENSIC Examiner, Dr. Vincent Okaa, has told the National and State Assembly Elections Tribunal sitting in Calabar how 21,782 multiple thumb-printing went to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Gershom Bassey while the scanner did not record any for Senator (Prince) Bassey Otu of the Labour Party (LP).
He was addressing the panel after analyzing the votes cast during the March 28, 2015 polls for Cross River Southern Senatorial District. Also, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Eni Okoi raised threat to his life and alleged attempts to force him to do things that were unethical.
On the other hand, Bassey has rejected the forensic test, saying they were going to produce their own expert, a request the tribunal granted. He also petitioned INEC Chairman and accused Okoi of incompetence, asking for his removal.
To cap the session of drama, a community leader from Erei North Ward of Biase Local Council of the state, Chief Joseph Egwu Odumusor and who claimed to be a Collation Agent for the PDP, was shocked to note that his name and signature on the INEC result sheet Form EC8 B (1) had been replaced by that of one Ukam Ukam Unyia in document serving as exhibit at the panel.
Okaa, while being cross-examined by the respondents’ counsel, Paul Erokoro (SAN), Effefiom Otu Ekong (Esq) and Eni Okoi (Esq), said the result was obtained after the analysis of the certified true copies and duplicates of the materials supplied by INEC as directed by the tribunal.
Otu is seeking the annulment of the election of Senator Bassey (PDP) on the ground of alleged manipulation of votes by INEC (Third Respondent) especially in Akamkpa and Biase Local Councils where the tribunal ordered the forensic exercise.
Lead counsel to Senator Bassey, Mr. Erokoro (SAN) contended that the forensic examiner contradicted his evidence by failing to provide tangible proof of the purported multiple thumb printing.
He queried Okaa, saying, “in your report, you said you found 21,782 cases of multiple thumb printing in favour of the PDP but you cannot prove it because you showed us only 20 enlarged imprints.
You don’t have analysis to show the Tribunal the 21,782 multiple thumb prints”. But the examiner explained that the enlarged version of the thumb print as a glossary in the report was a sample and summary of the finding and that if others were similarly amplified, the volume of the report would have been in excess of the 600 pages which he (Erokoro) was complaining to be too voluminous for study hence the sparing highlight as a sample.
Okaa agreed to the inquiry by the SAN that he incorporated the Nigerian arm of the United States of America (USA)-based Bode Technologies firm which conducted the analysis in 2011 and that he retired as a Commissioner of Police in 2012 to be fully engaged in the business.
On further cross-examination by Okoi (Esq), the examiner informed the tribunal that he was experienced on the job hence his choice to defend the assignment even as the physical examination of the exhibit was performed by other field staff.
Okaa, when asked to differentiate between finger mark and print by the counsel, he explained that the former is peculiar to the scene of crime while the latter is tied to an impression on a document or paper. Similarly, the Justice Christopher Awubra-led tribunal had also Gershom leave for INEC to tender all materials to enable him conduct similar analysis on them.
This, according to the panel, is to allow for justice and fair hearing. In his petition dated July 6, 2015 and addressed to the INEC Chairman, Okoi had accused the Senator Bassey of “incessant harassment of myself (Okoi) by the first respondent and his agents” insisting that he should do their bidding.
He alleged that the federal lawmaker had “personally called my mobile phone lines at several times to insist that we meet at his residence at Asari Iso in Calabar to perfect an inglorious and unethical act by stepping down for a SAN to lead me at the tribunal against the contemplation of my brief”.
Okoi further alleged that other prominent persons in the state had called his lines severally pleading that he should step down for a SAN and even threatened his life.
As a result of this, “I had to approach the Federal Housing Police to carry out surveillance at my private residence in order to secure the lives of my family members.
I have also had to move out of my private residence in order to forestall any attack on myself,” he stated. The lawyer said he had rejected all entreaties to do what was unethical “as it is against my principles as a legal practitioner to do what is ethically wrong and irresponsible in the conduct of my client’s brief.
I do not intend to take bribes and drag your institution’s good name in this matter,” Okoi added. But Bassey, in a counter petition dated July 18, 2015 to the INEC Chairman, called for Okoi’s removal as INEC lawyer alleging “incompetence, bias and lack of commitment to the defence of the commission”.
The senator further stated that “Okoi who has not only displayed his inability to diligently oppose the petition on behalf of your esteemed commission, INEC, but has on several occasions publicly and overtly shown his bias and sympathy for the petitioners.”
In the case of name substitution, Odumusor who appeared as witness to testify as Senator Bassey opened his defence, had told the Tribunal on Oath that he was the accredited agent of the PDP for the poll conducted on March 28, 2015 and that the exercise was done with substantial compliance with the rules and regulation which he endorsed the results of Units 1, 3 and 8 of the Ward.
However counsel for the petitioner, Essien Andrew (Esq) during cross examination tendered an exhibit conveying the results to INEC laden with inconsistencies and bearing the name of another person, thereby raising doubt as to the admissibility of the result therein.
Another witness, Emmanuel Ndem who said he is a Special Assistant to Biase Local Council Chairman, left the jury in doubt when he was contradicted during cross examination that there were 14 polling units in Agwagure/Okurike Ward instead of the 12 which he claimed.
Ndem, who confirmed that the Card Reader was used to accredit 54 voters, could not say why at the collation of the Primary School Okurike (Unit 9) result where he voted and claimed to have been conducted properly produced 91 votes cast as entered in the result sheet by the Presiding Officer.
The tribunal, which is almost at the conclusive stage of arbitration, got directive from its chairman asking counsel to file their written addresses and rejoinders for assessment while it adjourned to August 31, 2015. The panel, which was inaugurated on May 12 this year, is to wind up proceedings in October.