Delta: Re-run Poll Tribunal…Fingerprint Experts Disagree On Findings

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In barely 10 days for the Delta state re-run election petition tribunal to wind-up its trial and deliver judgement, on whether Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was rightly or wrongly declared winner of the January 6, 2011 governorship re-run election conducted in the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Delta state, fingerprint experts chosen to examine the electoral materials used during the poll have disagreed in their testimonies.  

  During cross-examination, a fingerprint expert, Prof. Patrick Igbigbii, told the Tribunal sitting in Asaba, that a forensic analysis of the ballot papers used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the January 6 governorship re-run in the state has shown that 55 per cent of the ballot papers had blurred fingerprints and that the ballot papers with partial and legible prints were 25 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.  

  Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Forensic Department, Force Headquarters, Alagbon, Lagos, Mr. Egbuna Vincent, told the tribunal that Ahmed Ibrahim, an ASP, PW 18, who testified before the tribunal between July 4 and 5, and gave a report on forensic examination of the ballot papers used for the January 6 re-run was no longer in the service of the Police Force.  

  Forensic evidences were tendered by Ahmed Ibrahim and accepted by the Tribunal when he was called to testify as witness to the petitioner (Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru), the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) governorship candidate in the election, who is challenging the result announced by INEC for the poll.  

  But Mr. Egbuna Vincent, the Commissioner of Police, Forensic Department, Force Headquarters, Alagbon, Lagos, during his cross-examination as witness for the first respondent (Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan) failed to tender contrary evidences of his forensic examination to the tribunal.  

  In his testimony, Prof. Igbigbii who was subpoenaed by the tribunal and called as a witness by the (first respondent), Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) revealed that most of the ballot papers had finger marks and not fingerprints, positing that the finger marks could be used to count votes, since it would be impossible to use those prints to indicate multiple voting during the January 6 re-run poll.  

  Recall that the appearance of a foreign forensic expert witness, David Goodwin of the Fingerprints Agency in the United Kingdom, who was presented by the Petitioner, had sparked off the legal tussle among counsels at the Tribunal.  

  David Goodwin, after having duly sworn to oath and deposed to an affidavit including his resume and his findings contained in a report co-authored by an expert from the Nigerian police, Ahmed Ibrahim, counsel to Governor Uduaghan, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) refused to proceeded with the cross examination on the grounds that the report was inadmissible as evidence.  

  In his counter argument, Mogbayi Sagay, representing the petitioner (Ogboru) told the tribunal that admissibility and the concept of admissibility under the Nigerian law and all over the world was based on the relevance of the evidence to the issue at hand rather than the author of the evidence.  

  In her ruling, Justice Uzoamaka Doris Ogwurike rejected the report Mr. David Goodwin could not lend his much anticipated voice to the proceedings. But in a twist, a forensic expert from the Nigerian Police, Ahmed Ibrahim, who co-authored the forensic report, also appeared as witness and the Tribunal in its ruling accepted the forensic report, earlier presented by David Goodwin as admissible evidence.  

However, the Petitioner, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, and the First Respondent, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, both governorship candidates in the January 6, 2011 re-run election in Delta State, have concluded their presentation and defences at the trial. The contending duo is separately represented in court by their counsels, Mogbayi Sagay (SAN), for the Petitioner (Chief Great Ogboru) and Wole Olanipekun (SAN) for the First Respondent (Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan).