Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson will today open his defence in the petition by the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Timipre Sylva, challenging his election as governor of the state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
This is after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday closed its case before the state governorship election tribunal sitting in Abuja.
The electoral body had told the tribunal that the election that produced Dickson was free, fair and was held in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
Its lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) called two witnesses who testified to the credibility of the election.
According to the testimony of Justine Adie, a civil servant who was the electoral officer in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, the January 9, 2016, was free, fair and in conformity with the electoral law.
He told the tribunal under cross-examination by counsel to Governor Dickson, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and that of the PDP, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that no report of violence was recorded during the election.
Adie further testified that the agents of various political parties, including the APC, signed the results of the election.
He held that before the January 9 election, INEC met with the various political parties in the state and other stakeholders and agreed on the date.
However, under cross-examination by counsel to the petitioners, Chief Sabastine Hon (SAN), the witness said he did not visit all the 198 polling units in the local government area.
He also admitted that the entries and signatories in the result sheets were not done in his presence.
Another witness, Alex Okorie, an electoral officer for Sagbama Local Government Area of the state, also testified to the credibility of the election.
The commission also tendered various documents from the bar to support its position at the tribunal.
INEC’s submission came even as a witness to the petitioners (PW1) accused the governor of fuelling crisis at Southern Ijaw during the December 6, 2016, election in the state.
The petitioners have closed their case by calling a number of witnesses who testified there was no election on January 9, 2016, in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state due to widespread violence.
Those who testified as at the time of filing this report were Gini Erefagbe (PW11), Kokorifa Mick (PW12), John Dealer (PW13), Jacob Sanuba (PW14), Solomon Ebisimtel (PW15) and Tali Douglas (PW16).
They were all agents of the APC in the disputed governorship election in Southern Ijaw.
In their separate testimonies, the petitioners’ witnesses who were led in evidence by Chief Sabastine Hon (SAN), tendered result sheets of the election from various wards and units.
Although the result sheets were admitted as exhibits by the tribunal, counsel to the respondents said they reserved their objections as to their admissibility.
Those who testified on Thursday were Francis Poazi, Rowland Enoch and Philip Bekewari, Oputu Caleb Enosh.
Poazi, who told the court that he was a registered voter and that he voted at the governorship election, said he was never a party agent.
He also declined knowing any agent or signing any result sheet, when he was cross-examined.
According to him, after voting, officials of the INEC announced the results and he heard that APC scored 200 while PDP scored five in his poling unit.
On whether he supported APC at the election, he declined, stressing that he never supported any political party but was neutral.
“I followed them to the ward where the result sheets were taken to but I did not know whether there was APC agent there or not. I just went on my own,” he added.
At this point, Counsel to PDP, Chief Wale Olanipekun read out the earlier statement by the witness, where he had declared that “after voting, I started monitoring voting, anticipating victory, having mobilised voters for the election.”
While admitting the statement as his, he however insisted that he never mobilised voters for any particular party.
“It is then taken that you did not anticipate victory for any party,” Olanipekun put to him, adding that “it is also taken that you were satisfied with the process of the election of December 6.”
The witnessed answered in affirmative.
The second witness, Enoch in his testimony said that after the December 6, 2015, election, he only heard rumours of another election scheduled for January 9, 2016, but on that there was no sign of election on that day.
He however admitted seeing result sheets issued by the presiding officer.
On whether APC had agents at the poling unit, he said he was not a card-carrying member of any party but he saw people wearing T- shirts of distinct political parties.
Having voted in 1999 election, he admitted to know what it looks like if election is taking place in a town and the fact that he was in his village on December 9.
When asked if he could affirm that there was no election on December 9, he stood his ground, insisting that there was no election on that day.
He also said he was not aware that APC candidate campaigned for votes against January 9 election, neither did he hear of the announcement of the results afterwards.
The third witness, Bekewari who also denied knowledge of election on January 9, was reminded of a letter dated January 5, addressed to him asking him to act as APC agent.
In his response, he said it was against the December 6 election. He was however confronted with the January 5, 2016, date written clearly on the letter.
Another witness denied hearing announcement banning movement of people and vehicle on January.
He said he went to his farm like every other day.
Some of the witnesses however made contradictory statements under cross examination by counsel to the respondents. In his turn, Governor Dickson, through his legal team led by Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), is expected to call about 3000 witnesses in the next seven days allotted by the tribunal.

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