The Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on Wednesday rejected evidence sought to be tendered by former Petroleum Minister, Atuekong Don Etiebet at the ongoing hearing of the governorship petition brought by the All Progressives Congress candidate, Mr Umana Okon Umana against the election of Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, July 29, Atuekong Etiebet appearing as a witness for the APC candidate had sought to tender some newspaper and video evidence which he claimed he had made during and after the election.
However counsel to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Paul Usoro, SAN had strongly objected to the admissibility of such documents by the Court claiming that they did not meet the basic ingredients of the law for them to be admitted by the Tribunal.
According to Mr Usoro, for such documents to have been admitted they ought to have been pleaded by the witness in his statement, an action which Atuekong Etiebet And the APC lawyers had overlooked.
On the video evidence, Counsel to Mr Emmanuel had also argued that it was not enough to have mentioned the generic name of the Computer like Hewlett Packard which the video was said to have been made from but that it was mandatory by law to state the model And serial numbers of the machines.
Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mr Tobechukwu Nweke while aligning himself with the submissions of Mr Usoro also went further to state that the origin of computer generated evidence ought to be ascertained since they are subject to distortions and manipulations.
Mr Usoro, citing several legal authorities had also contended that for the newspapers to be admitted, they ought to have been certified by the National Library a position Counsel to the APC candidate, Mr Wole Olanipekun, SAN had tried to debunk also citing his own legal authorities.
After. 30 minutes break to write their ruling, Hon Justice A. S. Umar, Hon Justice K. O. Dawodu and Hon Justice P. T. Kwahar unanimously agreed with the Counsel to Mr Udom Emmanuel that the newspapers and video evidence which Atuekong Etiebet had sought to tender did not meet the necessary legal requirements and subsequently threw them out.
Legal analysts believe that the rejection of the evidence of Atuekong Etiebet was a great set back for the candidate of the APC, Mr Umana Okon Umana who had also expressed frustration over the inability of his team of forensic experts to have scanned substantial materials even as the Court-ordered extension had since expired.
Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah who was also slated to testify for the APC may suffer a similar fate as Etiebet. The Tribunal continued its business with the cross-examination of the witnesses of the APC.