Kogi: SDP closes case after 25 witnesses; Ododo, APC open defence April 15


Governor Usman Ododo of Kogi State and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, will, on April 15, open their defence at the state’s governorship election tribunal sitting in Abuja, against the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and its candidate, Murtala Yakubu (Ajaka).

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The three-member tribunal, chaired by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, fixed the date on Friday after SDP and Yakubu, the petitioners, who had initially said they had 400 witnesses, closed their case after calling 25.

Recall that the SDP and its governorship candidate in the November 11, 2023 poll, are challenging Governor Ododo’s victory in the election.

In the petition, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Ododo and APC are listed as 1st to 3rd respondents, respectively.

When the case was called on Friday, INEC, Ododo and APC lawyers opposed the move by Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, to lead the witness, Edidiong Udoh, a digital forensic expert, in evidence.

Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN; Alex Iziyon, SAN, and Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, appeared for INEC, governor and APC, respectively.

They argued that the petitioners did not list the name of the witness in their proof of evidence and that the witness statement on oath was not front-loaded alongside the petition.

They also contended that the petitioners served the reports of the witness’ analysis on them 20 minutes before the commencement of the proceedings.

However, Okutepa insisted that the forensic expert was listed on Page 56 of the petition as item 10, adding that his statement was also front-loaded.

He, however, admitted that the report was served on the respondents a few minutes to the proceedings.

The lawyer, therefore, prayed the tribunal allow him lead Udoh in evidence and stand down the matter for 30 minutes for the respondents to study the report.

During a tribunal session, a self-proclaimed digital forensic expert residing in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, sought permission to amend a portion of his previously submitted statement. Udoh, the witness, expressed a desire to modify Paragraph 7, Line 3 of his statement on oath, which he had presented on January 12, before officially adopting it.

Udoh clarified, “The particular words that I used were not proper. I said, ‘There was some very suspicious software.’ I apply to change it to ‘there was no suspicious software used.'”

However, Agabi, Iziyon, and Ukala, representing different parties, disagreed with Udoh’s oral application. Agabi expressed concern, stating, “If this kind of amendment is permissible, then there is no kind of amendment that cannot be permissible.”

The judge advised them to reserve their objections for their final written submissions. Iziyon and Ukala aligned with Agabi’s position, agreeing to raise their objections at the appropriate juncture.

While giving evidence, Udoh asserted that he possessed 12 certificates supporting his qualifications. When Okutepa, the petitioner’s lawyer, sought to tender these certificates as exhibits, objections were raised by the respondents’ lawyers. They questioned why only photocopies of the certificates were presented without accompanying originals.

Udoh explained that the original certificates had been inadvertently left in his office in Port Harcourt. Despite objections, Justice Birnin-Kudu admitted the documents, urging respondents’ counsel to defer their objections until the final address.

During cross-examination, Udoh revealed that eight other experts had worked with him on the report. Responding to queries about the absence of their names and signatures in the report, Udoh clarified that he signed as the team leader.

He confirmed his understanding of the BVAS Machine’s purpose but noted that the snapshots included in his report pertained only to accredited and registered voters, not Form EC8A.

Additionally, Udoh clarified that his report did not examine ballot papers and that the figures in his report did not rely on the petition presented by SDP.

When questioned about the term “dactylography” used in his report, Udoh affirmed his expertise in fingerprint analysis but admitted that his CV did not mention it. He acknowledged unawareness of a specific certificate for dactylography experts.

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