The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Mike Igini, has revealed that three permanent staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have so far been sacked, while four are under investigation for electoral malpractices during the 2019 general elections.
Speaking on Wednesday in Uyo, Igini said both permanent and ad-hoc staff of the commission found culpable during the elections would be prosecuted.
He explained that two Professors who acted as collation/returning officers during the elections and subverted the outcome of elections results have been arraigned.
He said Prof. Peter Ogban, who served as returning officer in Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District changed the outcome of the election by reducing the score of a leading candidate by 5,000 votes, and increased that of the losing candidate with the same votes.
He stated that Ogban, however, failed to alter the overall total valid votes cast, and was exposed by the information tracking system of the Electoral Operation Support Centre (EOSC).
He mentioned that another Professor, Ignatius Uduk declared election results he did not collate but collated by undisclosed individuals who only handed the results to him to announce.
He said Uduk admitted to the fraud in a handwritten statement he had signed but refused to return to the commission for a debriefing on the matter.
“In the 2019 elections, two of these professors out of the many that worked with us credibly, we commended them for the good job, as well as some of our staff were engaged in electoral malpractice of the gravest nature. These staff have been dismissed from the commission.
“What you witnessed today in court is a follow up of those who are not our staff following our own internal investigation done here, and also followed up on request by the state office to the headquarters in Abuja.
“These academics were engaged because they were presumed to be individuals of high integrity who would not indulge in illegal act of deliberate electoral manipulation or falsification of election results during the process of collation.
“The commission was unequivocal that there would be severe consequences against any and all, no matter their status, who engage in acts capable of undermining the commission’s efforts to give meaning and purpose to the ballot as the best means of the expression of the will of the people in a democracy.
“But Professor Uduk refused to honour all invitations extended to him to appear before the panel. Rather, he threatened legal action against the commission through a letter by his lawyer, dated 26th August 2020. All efforts to reach him through the university authorities also failed as he appears to be on the run,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Prof. Peter Ogban who was arraigned in High Court 2 sitting in Ikot Ekpene under Charge No HT/29c/2020 has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
Prof. Ogban was charged on a two-count charge of “fraudulently manipulating scores in Etim Ekpo and Oruk Anam collation centres; and falsifying, publishing and announcing fake result in Etim Ekpo and Oruk Anam local government area during the State House of Assembly elections.”
(Text except caption courtesy of Daily Trust)