Today, July 25, 2019, the legal team of Obong Nsima Ekere, the Gubernatorial Candidate of the APC in the March 9 elections in Akwa Ibom, led by Okutpa, SAN goofed in court as the Petitoner testified in the matter.
Okutepa, SAN who is the lead counsel for the petitioner led his witness, Obong Ekere to the witness box to testify for himself as the forty-sixth witness for the Petitioner. The Petitioner/witness who was in court today for the third time since the commencement of the petition tendered his voter’s card, asserting that he is a registered voter and further that he contested for the office of the Governor at the 2019 elections in Akwa Ibom state. The witness also painstakingly identified all the voter register for the various polling units in Akwa Ibom state, a task that took him not less than one full hour from the humbling realms of the witness box. Anyone in court could see the burden of evidence hanging on his head, he asserted a thing, he said he won the elections and not HE, Udom Emmanuel, now, he has to prove.
To the chagrin of the court, Obong Ekere’s team, lead by Okutepa SAN displayed their unpreparedness and maybe not incapacity to escort Obong Ekere, successfully through the judicial doors to the Hilltop mansion at Barracks road, Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital.
It is a trite principle of law that documents not pleaded by a party cannot be tendered by the party in court. Unfortunately however, Okutepa, SAN, led Obong Ekere to his shame as he sought to tender evidence of uncollected PVCs which he claims were used at the elections. He never pleaded such, not in his petition, not in his witness’ statement on oath or even in the footnote to either of the documents.
The court after a thorough search through the documents filed by the petitioner noted that the said evidence were not pleaded but however admitted them subject to the objection to its admissibility raised by the Respondents. This admission, the court explained was in keeping with the spirit of Tribunal proceedings which is to allow objections to be taken along with the final address to avoid time wastages as the tribunal, by legal configuration has no luxury of time. By law, such document will amount to nothing, it has entered the court room unguarded, lacking in foundation, same will not be relied upon by the court in reaching her verdict.
Counsel for the Petitioner further dazed the court when they referred to paragraphs in their petition which were neither present in the Court’s copy of the petition nor in the Respondents’ copy. Okutpa, SAN, lead Counsel to the Petitoner took more than half an hour in efforts to put in the Court’s copy of the petition, a paragraph that was never there but indeed could not perform such magic. With Nsima Ekere’s face swollen in the witness box, with the courts legal walls inaccessible, Okutpa, SAN gave up:
*My Lords, we are sorry, I don’t know how I got paragraph 20 in what I have…its like I have a different document… We are sorry, My Lords*
Whatever that was, Obong Ekere, was sad, unsettled and unsure of what awaits his fate which is now largely dependent on his lawyers. He has known many failures, in March 9, his party failed him, his Hilux and and walking sticks did him no good. Shall his lawyers also let him down?
Recall that this team has asked for not less than three adjournments from the Tribunal to amend the Petitioner’s petition and has taken more time than any prepared Petitioner’s legal team should take in the interest of their case. With less than 70 days left for the Tribunal to give a ruling, Obong Ekere may need to hire a different team for his Appeal to the court of Appeal, he would have done this case alone, from his looks from the witness box, but no, he cannot, he is not fit and proper to walk such path.