The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has debunked reports that the convicted Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer, Prof. Peter Ogban, worked for him to commit election fraud.
He accused INEC in Akwa Ibom State of twisting the context of a court judgment and maliciously claiming the election was rigged in his favour.
A High Court in Akwa State on Thursday sentenced Peter Ogban, a Professor of Soil Science with the University of Calabar, who served as a Returning Officer in the 2019 general elections in Akwa Ibom North-West District, to three years imprisonment and asked him to pay N100,000 fine for manipulating the election results of Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo Local Government Areas of the state.
Senator Akpabio, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Anietie Ekong, argued that the claim by the PDP that the electoral officer was convicted for allegedly rigging an election in his favour and the All Progressives Congress, was spurious, unfounded, and malicious.
He said: “Contrarily, Senator Akpabio was a victim of the fraudulent manipulation of the election of Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District held on 23rd February 2019. He is vindicated that the perpetrators of the electoral fraud are being brought to justice. At last the chickens are coming home to roost.
“It could be recalled that Senator Godswill Akpabio had approached the National Assembly Election Tribunal to challenge the outcome of the February 23, 2019 Senatorial District elections, which held in Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.
“Among those who were sued was the Returning Officer of Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District, Professor Ogban, who alongside the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Mike Igini, hijacked the Election Results from the Senatorial District Collation Headquarters, Ikot Ekpene to another Senatorial District at the INEC office in Uyo, where the collated votes of Senator Godswill Akpabio were maliciously and arbitrarily cancelled by the Resident Electoral Commissioner- Mike Igini and Prof Ogban.”
The Minister noted that in the election, his votes totalling about 61,329 scored in his home Local Government Area – Essien Udim Local Government, having been collated, were not announced by Prof. Ogban in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“Rather, Prof Ogban who served as the Senatorial District Returning Officer joined the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) to Uyo, where the votes of Senator Akpabio were cancelled in various polling units and collation centres of various Local Government Areas constituting Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District including 61,329 votes of his home local Government,” he explained.
Senator Akpabio expressed surprise that it was only the Returning Officer that was charged while the REC was still parading himself in freedom.
“In a considered judgment of the Court of Appeal, the justices allowed the appeal by Senator Godswill Akpabio and ordered a Rerun election, while the Certificate of Return of the PDP candidate was withdrawn and nullified.
“The court condemned the action of the INEC and that of Prof. Ogban for which Prof. Ogban was charged, found guilty and sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of N100,000. The sentence has vindicated Senator Akpabio and the APC that the election was massively rigged,” he added.
He also noted that Prof. Ogban in a bid to manipulate the election and rig Senator Akpabio out, hijacked the electoral results of Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District from Ikot Ekpene, the Senatorial District headquarters to Uyo, where it was announced after cancellations of lawfully collated votes and against the dictates of the Electoral Act.
Senator noted that the collated votes from Abak, Etim Ekpo and Ini Local Government Areas were cancelled by Professor Ogban, the Retuning Officer when it got to Ikot Ekpene, the Senatorial District headquarters.
“It is obvious that some persons are being haunted by the ghost of the last election which they massively manipulated to reach a predetermined conclusion, a position which was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Calabar.
“In due time, we believe all the conspirators will be brought to justice as Prof. Ogban, either through the judiciary or divine. However, Senator Akpabio had since moved on to face his present national assignment.
“He should not be distracted by baseless and unfounded reports by the PDP hatchet men and mischief-makers,” the Minister concluded.