Four Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) witnesses on Monday told the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that the electoral umpire did nothing to favour the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Gov John Kayode Fayemi in the July 14 election in the state.
The witness said this as INEC opened its defence before the tribunal, sitting in FCT High Court Apo, in the petition brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election, Prof. Olusola Kolapo, challenging the declaration of Fayemi as the winner of the election.
The electoral body, APC and Gov Fayemi were joined as respondents in the petition.
The witnesses, Fadipe Titus; Olafusi Frederick; Bolade Funmilola and Olori Olubunmi, all made the declaration while being crossed examined by the counsel for APC, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN,.
The witnesses, who were Electoral Officers for Moba; Emure; Ise-Orun and Ekiti South-West local government areas, further told the tribunal that the allegation of irregularities during the election was not true.
Fadipe said the electoral officials, who worked under him during the election, carried out their duties fairly and diligently in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and the INEC guideline.”
He said though the ad hoc staff, who were serving corps members, deployed by INEC in the election were trained, they still made some honest mistakes.
He denied the allegation of polling officials deliberately voiding votes meant for the petitioners, saying that, “no presiding officer would deliberately void ballot papers”.
Under cross examination by the petitioners’ counsel, Mallam Yusuf Alli, SAN, the witness said the corps members used for the election as ad hoc staff, were not known to him before.
He said that he did not visit all the polling units in his local government, declaring that ” it is not possible (to do so)”.
According to Olafusi, it is not true that the electoral body manipulated documents in favour of both APC and Gov Fayemi.
While admitting that the ad hoc staff committed some honest errors, he declared that, “I want to confirm that they did their work fairly and diligently as trained. In all human endeavours, errors and omission are made.”
He said that where such honest errors were made, the election officials were entitled to correct same, saying that, “nobody is above mistake”.
Answering a question from Mallam Alli, the witness stated that he did not know any of the agents of parties who served in his local government during the election personally.
He said that he worked with 383 ad hoc staff during the election, adding that all of them were trained by INEC and that they wrote competence test a week before the election days.
The Electoral Officer for Ise-Orun LGA, Ayodele, said that all the ballot papers issued by the electoral body for election in the local government were accurately accounted for.
Olafusi, under cross examination by the petitioners’ counsel, said that there were 108 polling units in the local government area, adding that she only visited four wards and picked some units there for visit.
On her part, Olori declared that the allegations made against INEC were bogus.
According to her, “there was no report, oral or written, from the agent of PDP or the party’s candidate, Prof. Kolapo, complaining about the conduct of the election.”
She added that she was not aware of any complaints about conduct of the election in Ekiti South-West LGA were sent to INEC headquarters in Abuja or even in the state.
Olori stated that she could not remember the number of ballot papers she issued to polling officials for the conduct of the election.
“I am not in the position to know the number (of ballot papers) used and unused as I am here,” she added.
In another development, INEC, throught its counsel, Chief Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan, SAN, tendered certified true copies of Form EC8C for Ekiti South-West; Ise-Orun; Emure; Ikere; Moba; Ikole; Ido-Osi and Ilejemeje local government areas.
It also tendered the manual for election officials 2018. All the documents were admitted by the tribunal.
Meanwhile, at the request of INEC counsel, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Suleiman Belgore, adjourned sitting till Tuesday Nov.6 for continuation of hearing.