Akpabio’s Returning Officer goes to Jail over Electoral Fraud

*Ex Gov. may be arrested, prosecuted next

About two years after the 2019 election into Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District seat was won and lost, a High Court of Akwa Ibom State on Thursday, found Professor Peter Ogban, guilty of fraudulent manipulation of election results, publishing and announcing false results in a bid to catapult Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta back to the Senate. Recall that Chief Godswill Akpabio, two term governor of Akwa Ibom State had sought a return to the Senate but met stiff opposition from his Senatorial District who rather would vote for his rival and former deputy governor, Engr Chris Ekpeyong. Akpabio who is reputed for “bribing” his way through electoral contests, must have induced the returning officers to commit the electoral fraud.

His Lordship, Honorable Justice Augustine Odokwo after a listening to submissions and long processes by parties, found Professor Peter Ogban, Professor of Soil Science, University of Uyo guilty of electoral fraud and accordingly slammed a three year jail term on him. Mr Ogban was charged for manipulating election results of two Local Government Areas – Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo.

Reports say in a previous court session, Mr Ogban had told the court how results of the election were falsified to give Chief Godswill Akpabio, Senatorial candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) an unfair advantage over its main rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Ogban was prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The university lecturer was in the dock, pleading for mercy from the judge, Augustine Odokwo, as of the time of filing this report.

Recall that Mike Igini, Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State shortly after the general election had in an exclusive interview with Inspiration FM, vowed to prosecute staff and returning officers of the commission who aided electoral fraud during the exercise. Igini said the history he met at INEC, Akwa Ibom State was a bad history of criminal conspiracy between the party in power and some bigwigs where election results were written and read to allow certain individuals and their party to rule the state. PDP had been in power in Akwa Ibom State since 1999 when democracy returned till date. Opposition in the state have actually made renewed effort to capture the party. Igini’s position corroborated the position of 2011 and 2015 Governorship candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator John Udoedehe and Obong Umana Okon Umana who went to court seeking cancellation of elections on grounds of conspiracy between INEC and the PDP to rig the poll. Both lost their petitions on technical ground at different intervals. The two are immediate victims of electoral fraud in Akwa Ibom State at the level of the office of Governor. Mike Igini had equally reported how he had turned down overtures by Senator Godswill Akpabio to compromise the poll. With the judgment, Igini seems vindicated while Chief Akpabio may be prosecuted for giving bribe and colloborating to alter outcome of an election in his favor. A source at INEC who explained the case to Global Concord said Chief Godswill Akpabio maybe arrested and prosecuted soon over his role in the voilence and altering of the results in the two Local Government Areas. “Bribe is given and taken. Both he who gives and he who takes are guilty of crime. If one is punished, the other should not be let free if justice is to be served”, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, residents of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State Capital have commended Honorable Justice Odokwo for the decision which they described as sound and capable of serving as deterrent to other electoral officers in the future. They frowned at how lecturers who act as returning officers in an election usually conspire with fraudulent INEC officials to alter the wish of the people by abetting electoral irregularities wherein those who ought to win elections are made to loss and those who would ordinarily have no way to power get elected.

Lawyer to Professor Ogban said he will appeal judgment of the court. He may explore any legal lacuna in the judgement to escape the jail term. Sources say he may run upto the Supreme Court for a possible rescue.

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