Lawyer to University Don Accused of Electoral Fraud Withdraws from Case on Health Ground

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An Akwa Ibom State High Court has again adjourned the trial of Professor, Ignatius Uduk, over alleged electoral fraud during the conduct of the 2019 general election.

 

Uduk was the returning officer in the election for Essien Udim Local Government Area of the state.

The case suffered another adjournment when his Lawyer, Abasiodiong Ekpenyong yesterday announced his withdrawal from the case on health grounds.

The withdrawal letter dated January 12, 2023, and addressed to the Clerk of the Court was read in the Court by the Presiding Judge, Justice Bassey Nkanang, during court proceedings yesterday.


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In the letter, Ekpenyong apologised to the Court and Counsels, for his inability to continue the case due to ill health, stressing that he had also advised his client’s family to engage the services of a new lawyer, who would continue from where he stopped.

Ekpenyong had first withdrawn from the case on July 8, 2022.

The letter sent by Ekpenyong to the court reads in part: “Please bring to my Lord’s earliest notice of my inability to attend court today because of ill health.

“At the last sitting, the Court observed my inability to carry myself due to my ill health, the fact of which had become notorious.

“I do not wish to fall ill and remain ill till date. I am also not ignorant of the many adjournments, this case has suffered because of my ill health.

“As was advised by the court that I should step aside and take care of myself first, before any other thing, I write to inform this court that I have decided to withdraw from this case because I am not medically fit to continue the diligent prosecution of this case.

“Regrettably, am further informed by relatives of my client that he still in bad shape and this information cannot be communicated to him.

“While I wish him a quick recovery, I want to take out time to treat myself to wellness. This decision is hard for me but in view of the need to be alive, it is an easy one to take.”

Similarly, family of the defendant, Professor Ignatius Uduk, who is being prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commissíon (INEC), same Thursday served the court a medical report from Health Minders Clinic and Maternity, Uyo, the facility where he (defendant), was rushed to on October, 19th 2022, saying he could not come to court because he was still hospitalised.

After deliberating on both issues with the INEC Lawyer, Justice Nkanang advised family of the defendant to look for a Lawyer to take over the case, and then adjourned the matter to February 9, 2023 for continuation of defense.

Fielding questions from newsmen after the Court proceedings, INEC’S Lawyer, Mr. Clement Onwuenwunor, expressed concern over many adjournments the case has suffered.

He wondered why the defendant should be scared to step forward to clear his name if he has not done anything wrong.

He stressed that employing unethical ways to frustrate the case would not work, describing as most annoying that the person that brought the withdrawal letter told the Judge that the defense counsel called him just this morning to bring the letter to the court.

“We were shocked that the time the Court was about to sit today,  the Defense counsel decided to serve us a letter of withdrawal from the case, citing health issues.

“Our attention was further drawn to the fact that there is a medical report from the defendant himself, also giving reasons for his absence from court.

“The accustomed practice of the defense counsel in serving letters while court is about to sit is condemnable, unethical and it is not professional at all.

“It is a deliberate attempt to further frustrate the successful prosecution of this case, and we would review all the situations.

“The prosecution can never be discouraged in this matter, and the justice we seek, we will find it. And where you choose to withdraw from the case, courtesy demands that with the circumstances of this case we should have been informed prior to this date.

“The circumstances demanded that we take a further date. So the Court has further adjourned this matter to 9th of February 2023 for continuation of defense, that’s what has just happened.

“And if they don’t have anything to offer on that date we will look at the circumstances again and know the right step to take; we have options we can exploit.”

On the health condition of the defendant, Onwuenwunor said, “There is no record to convince anyone that this defendant is not trying to avoid justice.

“We have tendered before this court before a report of police investigation showing that earlier medical report he submitted on June 17, 2022, from Lagos State Teaching Hospital was forged.” he explained.



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