There was a mild drama at the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, Abia State on Tuesday as the remaining ten witnesses scheduled to testify against the member representing Obingwa-West state constituency at the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA), Hon. Erondu Uchenna Erondu, refused to testify in court.
The petitioner and the candidate of the Labour Party LP, Mrs. Victoria Onwubiko, had filed a suit challenging the victory of Hon. Erondu Jnr in the 2023 general polls. During their last sitting, Mrs Onwubiko’s lead counsel had informed the court that they would bring more witnesses to testify on Tuesday and subsequently close their case.
However, during the proceedings on Tuesday, the lead counsel to the petitioner, Barrister Raymond Nkannebe, surprised the court by requesting an adjournment to a later date. He explained that the witnesses they had expected in court earlier had disappeared from the court premises.
The tribunal chairman, Hon. Justice Kutigi, expressed dissatisfaction with the situation, stating that time was of the essence. He revealed that the tribunal was handling 15 other cases with limited time to conclude.
Hon Kutigi warned that such behavior would no longer be tolerated and advised the petitioner to close their case if their witnesses were not forthcoming to avoid unnecessary delays.
The court eventually adjourned the hearing to August 3, 2023, to give the petitioner an opportunity to bring their witnesses to court and close their case.
On July 14, 2023, seven out of the ten witnesses called by Mrs Onwubiko to testify against Hon Erondu Jnr had absconded without giving their testimony.
During cross-examination, one of the witnesses initially alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) register was not used, and the Biomidal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) used in the state constituency election was malfunctioning.
However, he later reversed his statement and admitted that the INEC voter register was used, and BVAS functioned properly, as he himself had voted using the system.
Another witness also confessed during cross-examination that there was no mutilation or alteration of exhibits, especially Form EC 8A, which was the result sheet, as he had earlier alleged.
Mrs. Onwubiko’s suit (EPT/HA/11/2023; Mrs. Victoria Dibunma Onwubiko Vs Hon. Erondu Uchenna Erondu Jnr) alleged that Hon. Erondu Jnr was wrongly declared the winner of the Obingwa-West state constituency election. She sought the court’s declaration of herself as the rightful winner.