Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has alleged that one of the contenders for the gubernatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Ondo governorship election, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, tried to lobby for favour from officials of the commission.
INEC which was responding to a $1million bribery allegation made against its staff by Ibrahim, said yesterday that it was the politician who through an intermediary, attempted to lure the officials of the electoral body by trying to arrange a meeting with the Ondo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in London.
Ibrahim alleged that the acting Legal Adviser of INEC, Mrs. O. O Babalola, demanded $1 million bribe from him to effect a judgement of court which certified him as candidate of the PDP candidate.
Ibrahim, who said he had reported the incident to the Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, also made a available a petition he had written to President Muhammadu Buhari on the allegation.
In a statement issued yesterday by National Commissioner, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, said lbrahim’s allegation cannot be the correct account of what actually took place.
The commission said at no time during the encounter that lasted less than 15 minutes did Babalola ask for $1million or any amount for that matter.
The statement read: “INEC’s attention has been drawn to several newspaper reports published on October 24, 2016, in which Ibrahim alleged that the commission‘s acting Director, Legal Services, Babalola asked for $1 million bribe from him, before the order made by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division could be complied with by the commission. He also accused the commission’s REC for Ondo State, Mr. Segun Agbaje of some ‘dirty deals.’
“According to a front-page report by the National Mirror of October 24, 2016, a newspaper in which Ibrahim has substantial interests, Babalola was alleged to have said: “I should bring $1million before she can do her job. She insisted that she will not obey the court order and if I don’t pay, she will not do it unless we bring another court order.
“In the same report, Ibrahim also alleged that the Ondo REC “requested to hold a meeting with him (Ibrahim) in far away London.
“The Commission hereby states, for the record, that from its preliminary investigation, nothing can be farther from the truth. On the first allegation. our investigation revealed that Ibrahim turned up at the INEC headquarters, Abuja, unannounced, made his way to Mrs. Babalola’s office, brandished a copy of the court document and insisted that INEC should accept him as the official candidate of the PDP for the Ondo governorship poll.
“0n sighting the unexpected guest, Mrs. Babalola called three other lawyers in her department to witness her encounter with Mr. Ibrahim and politely told him that the commission was already in possession of the court document.
“At no time during the encounter that lasted less than 15 minutes did Mrs. Babalola ask for $1million. Therefore, the allegation by Ibrahim is false.
“It should however be noted that court orders/judgments are served by court bailiffs and not individual parties. Furthermore, INEC only receives nomination papers from the national chairmen of political parties or their designated officials and not aspirants.
“In the second instance, the commission discovered that it was Ibrahim, who through an intermediary, tried to arrange a meeting with the Ondo State REC in London.
“This, Agbaje promptly declined and insisted that if Ibrahim wanted to see him (Agbaje), he was free to do so at the Ondo State INEC office during official hours. Therefore, lbrahim’s allegation cannot be the correct account of what actually took place.”
“The commission wishes to re-assure all Nigerians that it will never succumb to any form of blackmail or intimidation, but will remain focused on its determination to deliver free, transparent and credible elections, based on the rule of law,” it said.