The counsel to the All Progressive Congress’ governorship candidate in the Akwa Ibom state election petition tribunal, Victor Iyanam, has accused the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, of trying to sabotage proceedings at the tribunal.
Mr. Iyanam alleged that INEC officials had poured water on the over one million ballot papers ferried from the state to Abuja where the tribunal is sitting, in order to make it more difficult for the required forensic examination on the election materials to be carried out.
The APC candidate, Umanah Umanah, took the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Emmanuel Udom to the tribunal after Mr. Udom was declared winner of the April 11 governorship election by INEC.
Speaking on Wednesday to reporters in Abuja, Mr. Iyanam, who is a former commissioner of justice in the state, said the judge initially ruled that trial should start on Wednesday, July 8, but that since the materials arrived only on Friday July 3, after office hours, the petitioner therefore asked for 14 days extension before trial.
The judge however granted seven days including Saturday and Sunday and fixed that the trial proper will now begin Tuesday, July 14.
“Now the problem is that INEC is using the same delay tactics they used in Uyo to make it impossible for the forensic team to start their work. By the way, the forensic experts have been in Uyo since May 14, and have been unable to conduct any examination in seven weeks,” he said.
INEC had on July 6 requested for a letter from the petitioner, to allow the forensic team start work, which they received on the same day.
Mr. Umanah’s counsel alleged that on Tuesday July 7, the commission “requested that to proceed with examination they need the legal officer from Uyo, who accompanied the election materials to Abuja to return.
“The legal officer just dumped the materials after hours on Friday and returned to Uyo, without handing over officially to anyone. Procedurally, they have to wait for the legal officer from Uyo to handover the materials, which at this point could take another day.
“At this rate the forensic team might not be able to get examine the materials on time,” he said.
Mr. Iyana added that it should take two to three weeks to properly examine the materials and “in this case we are looking at about 1 million ballot papers.
The worst part is that the process to examine the evidence has been made harder by INEC officials, who squeezed the papers like trash and poured water on them.
“This means the ballot papers will have to be straightened out and dried to be able to scan them electronically for examination and this doubles the time for the forensics team as the machines that would normally scan 50 papers per minute, will now be unable to do so,” he said.
Mr. Iyanam added that based on technical precedence of the tribunal proceedings, the terrible state of the election materials is on its own a criminal offence.
INEC could not be immediately reached to respond to the allegation.