HOW OBA’s STAR WITNESS DEMOLISHED UMO ENO’s DEFENCE AT TRIBUNAL

Tuesday, June 20, 2023, was a day Pastor Umo Eno and his legal team never saw coming. At the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, they probably thought they had everything under control, until it was time for the petitioner to call the first witness for the day.

As the subpoenaed witness, Daniel Akpan, walked into the Witness Box, heads turned and curious looks traveled across the courtroom. Initially, the reality did not register on them even when the witness removed the facemask, which he used to disguise himself for fear of physical attack from unknown persons, who had been threatening him on phone. The first real shock came when the petitioner’s lead counsel explained who the witness was. That was when Umo Eno’s legal team led by Paul Usoro, SAN, went into an abrupt consultation. Suddenly, there was tension and pandemonium in the air!

Minutes later, all the respondents’ lawyers started protesting. They claimed they were not given enough time to study the witness’s written statement on oath. According to them, it was served on them that morning. Some even sought to block the witness from testifying.

But their protests gathered no moss. There was no way the tribunal could stop the witness from testifying, since he was there at the instance of the court (subpoenaed). The highest they could get was a 30-minute “stand down” of the witness, to enable the respondents’ lawyers study the said document. Meantime, another matter between Akan Udofia and Umo Eno, with Senator Albert Bassey as the 4th respondent, was called to fill time. The stand down for the initial 30mins took over 1hr 45min which according to our source Paul Usoro told Gov Umo eno during a telephone conversation outside the tribunal that the case will not go on until a confirmation from the university of the witness identity and status .

Umo Eno’s Team Rattled

From the moment Umo Eno’s legal team realise who Daniel Akpan was, they became disoriented. In the middle of another ongoing matter where Akan Udofia was the petitioner, Paul Usoro, SAN, excused himself, went outside and spent over an hour on phone calls. Consultation with members of his team continued, when the court declared a recess.

Umo Eno’s team was rattled because they had, a week earlier, pushed the narrative that Daniel Edet Akpan was “non-existent.” In fact, on June 16, 2023, they featured a witness from the University of Uyo, Dr Ime Akpabio, who arrogantly argued that there was no person named Daniel Akpan in the university. He claimed to have conducted a staff audit, in his capacity as the Director of Academic Affairs, submitting that Daniel Edet Akpan “does not exist”!

Yet, 52-year-old Mr Akpan, happens to be the staff who endorsed the Certified True Copies (CTC) of Umo Eno’s academic credentials, which Senator Bassey Albert is currently using in his petition against INEC, Eno and PDP.

Defence Demolished

In terms of physical might, Daniel Akpan looks innocuous. In fact, “innocuous” was the word Raji, SAN, used to introduce him to the tribunal. But Akpan’s mere appearance in court, even without any testimony, demolished the foundation of Umo Eno’s defence. Apparently, all they relied on was the hope that either Daniel Akpan did not exist or had died.

In fact, Akpan’s emergence in court clearly portrayed Dr Ime Success Akpabio as a liar. And a liar on oath which in law automatically renders his testimony useless . Even as a Reverend gentleman, Akpabio boldly held the Bible, looked at it closely and lied on oath. Interestingly, he exuded much airs while declaring the documents presented by the petitioner as “fake”. Then, he boastfully claimed that those documents had impugned his integrity and that of the university.

Yes, Mr. Akpan further demolished the respondents’ defence when he tendered several documents to prove that he is not just alive but a bona fide staff of Uniuyo. Led in evidence by Tunde Falolan Esq, Mr Daniel Akpan submitted his letter of employment, last promotion letter from the university , as well as pay advice covering 2021 up to May 2023 from the university. Although he identified his IPPIS number as TI148213, he admitted he did not know it was about. “The makers are in a better position to explain,”he said to the amusement of the audience.

As expected, the respondents’ counsels fought back. Employing the art of intimidation, bullying, cajoling, ad hominem fallacy, among others, they tried to unsettle the witness by derailing his focus. But the resolute man remained alert.

He carefully identified all the documents which UNIUYO had certified through him, including Umo Eno’s WAEC certificates for 1981, 1983 and 1998, as well as the Remita Retrieval Reference (RRR) receipt for the payment of the certification.

Asked if he certified the documents in his capacity as a staff of the university, Mr Akpan answered in the affirmative. He went on to affirm that he was assigned from the office of the registrar to certify Umo Eno’s academic records. According to him Mr AniediAbasi Udofia was the registrar, then.

On cross-examination, Akpan said part of his job schedule as an Admin Officer includes receiving documents for the office of the registrar as well as certifying documents that may be assigned to him by the Registrar.

He said after the applicant paid to the university, he was assigned to certify Umo Eno’s records as was customary.

Chasing the Shadows

Apparently flustered by the confidence of the witness, the respondents’ counsels tried to portray him as incompetent and incapable of occupying the office of an Admin Officer. Offiong Offiong, SAN, counsel to the 1st respondent (INEC) tried putting Akpan on the spot but failed. When Offiong, SAN, tried a narrative that it was the sole job of the Admin Officers to draft letters for the Registrar to sign, Daniel Akpan disagreed. Rather, he corrected the counsel that the Registrar may assign any officer under him or her to draft any such letter.

Next, the lawyer tried shaking Akpan by going on personal attack. He questioned why the Admin Officer’s salary did not change even after promotion, but Akpan told the court that it was only the university that could answer that since he was not the one paying himself. The lawyer’s aim was probably to prove that Akpan’s promotion letter was fake, but he got a firm and sharp civil servant to contend with.

To ridicule him or shake his confidence, the respondents’ lawyers asked Akpan the full meaning of CONTISS (Consolidated Tertiary Institution Salary Structure). They also asked him to spell “Administrative Officer” and “Quantity Surveying”. But Akpan was unfazed. The ones he knew, he answered. And those he wasn’t sure, he honestly said so. For instance, on CONTISS, he confessed: “I am just hearing from you now the full meaning of CONTISS.” His candidness was well received as the court went down in laughter, apparently also helping to ease the building frustration on the respondents’ counsels.

The Admin Officer admitted that he was employed in 1998 as a Clerical Officer with SSCE, but was later promoted after he studied and obtained B.Sc in Quantity Surveying from Uniuyo in 2021.

When Offiong Offiong , SAN, suggested that he was not an Admin officer because his salary on the pay slip did not reflect what was on the promotion letter, Mr Akpan said he was not the one determining his pay.

According to the Federal civil servant, who said he once headed the Records Unit, he was posted from the Registrar’s office to the Faculty of Environmental Science in April 2023.

Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, taking his turn, tried to rattle Akpan, but received a lesson, instead. He has mistaken the number “2016” to mean the year Akpan was issued the staff identity card by the university. But, the Admin Officer sharply corrected him twice that the number represented his Staff Number; whereas he got his ID card in the year 2020.

Then, Oyetibo, counsel to 3rd respondent (PDP), thinking he had made another potentially destabilising discovery, announced gleefully that the date on Akpan’s promotion letter was a Friday. He however got a witty answer that left him ruffled. “My letter of promotion is not a lie. If December 18, 2020 on the letter wasn’t Wednesday, then it is the university that lied, not me”, said Akpan.

Threats to His Life

Daniel Akpan proved to be a very consistent witness. Every efforts to derail him failed. Once he made a statement, he stood by it, no matter how the respondents’ lawyers tried to trick him by asking the same questions in different ways.

If he had gone through terrible emotional and psychological stress, he did not let it show on his mien. Thus, he shocked the court when he revealed that he had been on the run because of persistent threats to his life.

According to him, he could not inform the university when he was served with the court summons because he was not sure who to trust. “The reason I didn’t report to the university is that I got several phone calls from unknown persons telling me that I signed documents against Umo Eno, and if I come to work, I will see something. So, I stopped going to work since June, for security reasons, ” he added.

That threat to life obviously followed the witness to the tribunal as information filtered in during the session that stern looking security personnel were mobilised and detailed to arrest him once he stepped out of the court.

The petitioner’s counsel, Raji, SAN, then sought the protection of the tribunal for the subpoenaed witness. ”There are reports that there is a van waiting to arrest him once he steps out of court”, he told the panel. However, the tribunal mere ordered the witness not to step out of the courtroom.

When the tribunal adjourned about 7pm, a horde of policemen and army personnel cordoned off the entrance of Wellington Bassey Way, searching every inch of every vehicle for Daniel Edet Akpan, a fellow who had a week earlier been declared “non-existent”. Every one was held hostage by the security and killer squad deployed to kill and maimed Akwabomites by the police commissioner Akwa ibom state on the orders of Gov Umo Eno but thank God for the intervention of the Senate President and the Inspector General of Police .

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