Kogi Tribunal: Ododo, APC To Open Defence As SDP Closes Case After 25 Witnesses

by Ohepo Ohepo

On April 15, Kogi Governor Usman Ododo and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party will begin their defence against the appeal brought by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Murtala Yakubu (Ajaka), at the state’s governorship election tribunal located in Abuja.

The date was set on Friday by the three-member panel, which was presided over by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu. Yakubu and SDP, the petitioners, had previously claimed to have 400 witnesses, but they had now called 25 and closed their case.

Recall that the SDP is contesting Gov. Ododo’s election victory, as is the case with its candidate for governor on November 11, 2023.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ododo, and the APC are identified as the first, third, and first responders, respectively, in the petition.

Attorneys for INEC, Ododo, and the APC objected to Jibrin Okutepa, SAN’s attempt to summon Edidiong Udoh, a digital forensic expert, as a witness when the case was called on Friday.

Emmanuel Ukala, SAN; Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN; and Alex Iziyon, SAN, who represented the APC, governor, and INEC, respectively, contended that the witness’s name was not included in the petitioners’ proof of evidence and that the sworn witness statement was not front-loaded with the petition.

Additionally, they said that 20 minutes before to the start of the proceedings, the petitioners had served them with the witness analysis reports.

However, Okutepa emphasised that the forensic expert’s statement was front-loaded and that it was item 10 on Page 56 of the petition.

He did acknowledge, though, that the respondents received the report just before the meeting began.

Thus, the attorney implored the tribunal to grant him permission to provide Udoh as evidence and to pause the case for half an hour so that the respondents may review the report.

Udoh, a digital forensic specialist from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, identified himself. He asked the tribunal to enable him to make changes to Paragraph 7, Line 3 of his sworn declaration, which he filed on January 12, 2024, before adopting it.

“The specific phrases I used weren’t appropriate. “I applied to amend it to ‘there was no suspicious software utilised,'” he prayed, adding, ‘There was some pretty suspicious malware.”

Iziyon, Ukala, and Agabi, however, disapproved of Udoh’s oral application.

“If this kind of amendment is permissible, then there is no kind of amendment that cannot be permissible,” Agabi stated.

For their last written addresses, the judge requested them to hold off on objecting.

Agabi’s submission was supported by Iziyon and Ukala, who also promised to bring up the matter when it was suitable.

Udoh claimed to have 12 certifications to back up his credentials when testifying.

Additionally, the attorneys for the respondents protested when Okutepa attempted to submit the witness certificates as exhibits.

They questioned why the attorney only wanted to provide photocopies of the certifications rather than the actual paperwork to bolster the claims.

In response, the witness said he didn’t bring the original certificates.

“The originals were mistakenly left in my office in Port Harcourt but I have them,” Udoh stated.

The petitioners’ attorney argued that the certificates might be included since they were personal documents, even if the panel rejected the reproductions.

Judge Birnin-Kudu acknowledged receipt of the materials and asked the respondents’ solicitors to hold off on raising objections until the last speech.

When asked if he was the sole expert who worked on the report during the cross-examination, the witness responded that eight other experts collaborated with him on it.

It was brought to his attention that he had not signed the names of these experts in the report, nor had they included their signatures.

Udoh retorted that, as the team leader, his name and signature were on the report.

“We eight people worked on the analysis. Our qualifications as digital forensic specialists are the same.

“As the team leader, I signed the report. I was the team lead, which is why I did not include their name,” he stated.

The witness was further questioned on the contents of the BVAS Machine and its meaning. According to him, they were meant to include data on registered voters, accredited voters, and any other relevant information.

When the respondent’s attorney asked if Form EC8A was included in this material, he replied that it might be.

The attorney for the respondents then questioned whether Form EC8A was present in each and every BVAS Machine snapshot that was included in his report.

According to Udoh, only registered and accredited voters could access the snapshots.

Form EC8A is one of the forms that should be included in BVAS according to the INEC guidelines.

He responded “no” when asked if he looked at the ballots and if his conclusions were included in his report.

He did, however, affirm that he received the voters registration from INEC, though he was unable to recall the number.

During the hearing, a significant disparity was noted between the numbers in the witness’s report and those in SDP’s petition.

However, he stated that he did not base his report writing on the petition.

When the witness was asked if he understood the meaning of the word “dactylography,” which he was alleged to have used in his report, he replied that he was an expert in finger prints.

Then someone pointed out to him that his resume, as submitted, made no mention of that.

He replied he was unaware of the existence of a credential for dactylography experts when questioned.

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