A digital forensic expert, Edidiong Udoh has described the video evidence earlier tendered by the petitioners’ 44th Witness, Mr. William Ndarake, as a scam stage managed to mislead the tribunal.
Udoh, who faulted the earlier allegation that the video revealed massive thumb printing at Senator Christopher Ekpenyong’s house, said it was a deliberately orchestrated video where the GPS was switched off by the witness, to prevent analysts from tracing the location of the event in the video.
At the resumed hearing of the petition by APC Governorship Candidate Nsima Ekere at the Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal, the forensic analyst said contrary to Mr. Ndarake’s evidence that the video was recorded under duress with the phone placed on the ground, the video showed scenes recorded by more than one person with the participants fully showing indications of being part of the plot.
“If the phone was placed on the floor, the only angle it’d have captured would have been only one point of the roof of the building or one direction of the room, but the video shows activities of what happened even on top of the table and all angles of the room, meaning the device was in motion from the beginning to the end.
Under Cross Examination by Counsel to INEC, Sylva Ogwemoh SAN, he said, “from my observation, over three persons were involved in the making of this video apart from PW44.
“PW44 also misled the Tribunal by saying he later picked up the phone to continue the recording. All through the video, he is seen seated with legs stretched out and his hands on his thighs. This means the video was done by someone else”
“The person in front of the green table and the person who begged that his face should not be recorded were in the know of the video recording.
“There was someone who was doing the thumb printing. It was stage managed and not done under tension or anxiety like PW44 claimed” Udoh said
On cross examination by Counsel to the Petitioner, Prof. Joash Omopitan, the witness emphasized that “it is impossible for PW44 to have made this video by himself with his phone like he claimed because he is seen sitting with his hands on his thighs all through. He did not even stand up at any point. Two whole video was done by someone else not him”
He added that “as a forensic expert, I’d have traced the location where the video was made from the meta-data-file of the video, but the person who made the video consciously switched off the GPS of the device”.
“If the meta data file was present, under my forensic examination, I would have seen the date, the time, the location of the scene and even the name of the device in use.”
On further examination on why he didn’t request for the handset used for the recording, he said with his trainings and expertise, he didn’t need to request for the device which had clearly been obstructed from getting details of the place it recorded.
On whether he was paid to carry out the analyses, he said he carried it out free as a voluntary exercise.
He also told the tribunal that the pictures on the wall of the location where blurred, and no amount of analyses can reveal any image on the pictures because of the poor quality of the recording.
Earlier, counsel to the defeated Governorship candidate of the APC, Mr. Nsima Ekere has lost his bid to stop the forensic expert, Mr. Edidiong Udoh who was subpoenaed by the tribunal.
Legal fireworks started when Counsel to the petitioner, J.S. Okutepa, apparently sensed that the video evidence analyses would nail the coffin against his client, if allowed by the court.
The petitioner’s witness, William Ndarake had tendered a video, claiming that he recorded an election manipulation scene under captivity of alleged PDP thugs.
No sooner had Mr. Edidiong Udoh who was the third witness for the day, mounted the witness box with a projector already mounted at the court room and set for cross examination, than Ekere’s counsel vehemently objected to the admission of his analyses by the court.
Countering Nsima Ekere’s submission, Counsel to the PDP, Tayo Oyetibo, (SAN), Counsel to Governor Udom Emmanuel, Chief Solomon Umoh(SAN) and Counsel to INEC Dr. Solomon Ielanye had prayed the court to allow the witness testify, maintaining that the evidence he would be tendering in court was in the interest of justice.
In his ruling, the tribunal chairman A. M. Yakubu discountenanced the objection and urged that the scientific expert be allowed to testify.
Meanwhile, two other witnesses who testified earlier in the day namely, Elder. Patrick Albert, a former NUJ Chairman in the state and Mr. Emmanuel Ogbole, Chairman, Arewa Peoples Assembly( an umbrella body for Northerners, including both Christians and Muslims from the 19 Northern States in the federation residing in Akwa Ibom) told the court that the Governorship elections were conducted peacefully in Akwa Ibom.
Albert who is immediate past Chairman of NUJ in the state admitted that there was orderliness, and there were no incident of vote buying nor molestation of voters at the places he monitored the exercise.
The former NUJ boss said he voted at his polling unit in Uyo Local Goverment Area before he proceeded on media coverage of the exercise with his team from the NUJ in 5 local government areas namely, Uyo, Ibiono-Ibom, Nsit-Ubium, Ibesikpo-Asutan and Etinan.
On his part, the Chairman, Arewa People’s Assembly, Ogbole Emmanuel who hails from Benue State, told the tribunal that election was peaceful, free and fair in Akwa Ibom.
Ogbole who said he voted and monitored the exercise at his unit, countered the claim of the APC Governorship candidate, Mr. Ekere that the exercise was not marred by irregularities.
Not minding that his first two objections to bar the First Respondent’s witnesses from testifying were overruled by the Governorship Tribunal, Okutepa again objected that Edidiong Udoh, a forensic expert, subpoenaed to analyse the Petitioner’s video evidence against Governor Emmanuel cannot testify.
Okutekpa said the analysis of the Petitioner’s video evidence was not done in the presence of the Petitioner and the Petitioner would be seeing Udoh’s analysis for the first time.
He also accused the First Respondent of analyzing an Exhibit of the Tribunal, without the knowledge of the Tribunal.
He added that the First Respondent cannot give evidence on a matter not pleaded by him but by the Petitioner.
Governor Udom Emmanuel, through his Counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN referred the Tribunal to the ruling of the Supreme Court in Igboyim vs Obianke that a respondent can give evidence in a matter pleaded by the Petitioner.
He prayed that the Governorship Tribunal sitting in Uyo would not be misled to take wrong steps by his learned friend, Okutekpa SAN.
Counsel to INEC, Sylva Ogwemoh SAN submitted that the right to fair hearing is an issue of law and a right to all.
The Tribunal Chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu in the interest of justice again overruled Okutepa’s objection, nodding that the Subpoenaed witness should testify.