The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and All Progressives Congress have heaped coal of fire on the Peoples Democratic Party over the imprisonment of University of Calabar’s Professor on election fraud, agreeing that Akpabio has been vindicated by the ruling.
Professor Peter Ogban was on Thursday, March 25 sentenced to three years by Ikot Ekpene High Court in Akwa Ibom State for committing election fraud during the 2019 National Assembly election in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
Akpabio who was the APC candidate for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District at the election sought a return to the Hallowed Chambers, after he defected from the PDP but was defeated by PDP candidate, Mr Chris Ekpenyong, a former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom.
Akpabio in a press release on Friday said ”The attention of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has been drawn to the news making the rounds about a certain Professor Peter Ogban who was sentenced to three years imprisonment after he was found guilty of fraudulent manipulation of election results of 23rd February 2019.
”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.’’
In a press release dated March 26, and signed for the Minister by Anietie Ekong, Chief Press Secretary to the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio noted ”In their desperation in a continuing campaign of calumny against Senator Akpabio, the INEC in Akwa Ibom State twisted the context of the judgment and maliciously claimed that the election was rigged in favour of Senator Akpabio.
”Nothing could be further from the truth. 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.’’
The Senator who represented Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District remarked ”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 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.
”In that election, Sen. Godswill Akpabio’s votes totaling about 61,329 scored in his home Local Government Area – Essien Udim, having been collated, were not announced by Prof. Peter Ogban in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.’’
The two-term Akwa Ibom governor recalled ”Rather, Prof Ogban who served as the Senatorial District Returning Officer joined the Resident Electoral Commissioner to Uyo where the votes/scores of Sen. Akpabio were cancelled in various polling units and collation centers of various Local Government Areas constituting Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District including 61,329 votes of his home local Government.
”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 and Mike Igini. The only surprise is that it is only the Returning Officer that was charged while the REC is 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.’’
According to him, ”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 Retuning 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 where 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 and INEC. 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?’’ he queried.
Akpabio explained ”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 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 court has finally vindicated Sen. Godswill– APC
On its part, APC says justice will always prevail under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Yekini Nabena, APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, said this in a statement on Friday in Abuja, was reacting to a court judgment sentencing Prof. Peter Ogban of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), to three years imprisonment for electoral fraud.
The convict who manipulated the result of 2019 Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial poll against the APC, was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer.
“The court has finally vindicated the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabioand the ruling party having handed a three-year jail term to Ogban, used to manipulate the result of Akwa-Ibom North-West Senatorial election against APC.
“Ogban, who was the returning officer at the senatorial election in Akwa Ibom North-West in 2019, was also fined N100, 000, the UNICAL professor was prosecuted by INEC,’’Nabena said.
He added that the agents of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who used the UNICAL professor to rig out the APC’s candidate at the election should bury their heads in shame.
According to Nabena, the Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial election was fraudulently postponed by the returning officer against the wish of the APC and its candidate.
He added that all complaints made by Akpabio and the APC were not given attention.
The APC spokesperson recalled that during the election, the minister advised INEC to redeploy the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) after noticing that the PDP was using officials of the commission against him.
He noted that Akpabio had condemned the manipulative strategy employed by the PDP and its agents, particularly in Akwa Ibom to discredit the APC which resulted to the court’s pronouncement.
Nabena called on Nigerians to disregard the attempt by the PDP and its sponsored agents to misinform the general public on the real issues and the court verdict.
“We celebrate the court’s pronouncement jailing one of the agents of the PDP used against our candidate (Akpabio) in the Senatorial election in Akwa Ibom North-West in 2019.
“We always believe that if a lie goes for 20 years, the truth will meet up with it one day.
“This judgment is significant in the sense that others like Ogban in the system, should henceforth know that under the present APC-led Federal Government, justice will always prevail,’’ he said.