By Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA
A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has debunked claims by the Peoples Democratic Party PDP that the jailed electoral officer in Akwa Ibom state, Prof. Peter Ogban worked for him and the APC during the February 2019 Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District elections.
APC through its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena had earlier hailed the three-year prison sentence slammed on the University of Calabar professor after he was found guilty of fraudulent manipulation of election results, and accused him of having worked for the PDP too.
Chief Press Secretary to the minister, Anietie Ekong in a statement on Saturday said “the claim by the PDP that the Electoral Officer was convicted for allegedly rigging an election in favour of the All Progressives Congress and Senator Akpabio is spurious, unfounded and malicious”.
He said in their desperation and continued campaign of calumny against Senator Akpabio, some electoral officials in Akwa Ibom State twisted the context of the judgment and maliciously claimed that the election was rigged in favour of Senator Akpabio.
According to the statement, nothing could be further from the truth, adding that the facts of the case put a lie to this assertion.
“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 Sen. 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. Amongst those who were sued was the Returning Officer of Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District, Professor Ogban who 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.
“In that election, Sen. Godswill Akpabio’s votes totalling about 61,329 scored in his home Local Government Area – Essien Udim Local Government, having been collated, were not announced by Prof. Peter Ogban in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“An appeal from the National Assembly Election Tribunal to the Court of Appeal invalidated the elections and a rerun election was ordered in Essien Udim Local Government Area because of the fraudulent act of Prof Ogban.
“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 Independent National Electoral Commission 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.
“Professor Ogban was the Returning Officer who in a bizarre twist 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. Similarly, collated votes from Abak, Etim Ekpo and Ini Local Government Areas were cancelled by Professor Ogban the Returning Officer when it got to Ikot Ekpene, the Senatorial District headquarters.
“It can also be recalled in Obot Akara, the Local Government Area of Senator Akpabio’s opponent were a clear case of over-voting was recorded and the votes annulled by the Local Government Returning Officer, Professor Ogban strangely validated the votes in INEC office in Uyo to give an advantage to Senator Akpabio’s opponent.
“The question is: who was the beneficiary of the electoral fraud and manipulation in Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District? Certainly, not Senator Akpabio, which was why he challenged the outcome of the election up to the Court of Appeal which upheld his appeal and ordered a rerun election with very strong condemnation of the activities of the Returning Officer. How then could the same man whose actions Senator Akpabio was dissatisfied with and challenged in Court be said to have rigged the election for Senator Akpabio?
“For the avoidance of doubt Prof Ogban never announced Senator Akpabio as the winner of any election. Instead, he cancelled his lawful votes and announced Senator Akpabio’s opponent as the winner of the manipulated election. It is the height of mischief for anyone to say that a man who arbitrarily cancelled lawfully collated votes of the APC and announced the PDP winner of the election was working for Sen. Akpabio.
“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 statement added.