Okon Bassey in Uyo
The legal team of the Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the March 9, 2019 general election in Akwa Ibom State, Obong Nsima Ekere, has raised the alarm that its case was being frustrated over lack of access to inspect the election materials as ordered by the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in the state.
Mr. Victor Iyanam who is leading over 10 lawyers to represent the APC governorship candidate in the tribunal raised the alarm while speaking with newsmen in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
He regretted that 20 days after the election and the order duly given by the tribunal, his team could not access the election material in custody of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC).
“We filed the governorship petition papers on the March 29, and on the April 15 we obtained two orders from the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal; one was to empower us inspect election materials of the March 9 governorship election on behalf of the APC governorship candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere.
“The order of that tribunal empowering us to inspect was served on INEC. Since that time all our efforts to inspect materials at the INEC office had been fruitless; fruitless because officials of INEC have refused to present materials for inspection,” Barrister Iyanam lamented.
He threatened that a contempt charge may be secured from the Tribunal and slam on the INEC if the frustration to inspect the materials still linger.
“Election held on the March 9, we are now over 20 days after, INEC cannot present materials for tribunal to inspect.
“This time around we are not going to accept it from INEC. We are going to commit some of them for contempt of court of the tribunal.
“After issuing orders, the tribunal must be in a position to punish for contempt of court otherwise democracy will not take root in this country,” the petitioner’s counsel insisted.
Ekere has petitioned the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr. Mike Igini on the refusal of his office to comply by the Tribunal order.
“We are however distressed by the delay, refusal and unwholesome excuses given by your office for non-compliance.
“Some of the excuses include non-availability of the materials as a result of transport challenges in bringing them from the local government areas, inadequate staff to carry out those duties and the fact that the INEC staff are busy with Senator Akpabio’s inspections.
“The excuses have variously continued to be untenable in the light of the short period of time to prove our case at the Election Petition Tribunal.
“We regret to state that your staff appear to be acting the script of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now behave as though they are taking instructions from you,” Iyanam declared
Continuing, he argued that since Senator Akpabio’s election was for Senate and different from that of Obong Nsima Ekere who was for governor , INEC position on inspection of the governorship election materials was simple face saving .
“Assuming it was the same date while not starting us with Uyo senatorial district materials or Eket senatorial district materials while senator Akpabio is doing his own for Ikot Ekpene senatorial district.
“Now we are convinced that it was not because of any logistic consideration, it was deliberate acting the script of the PDP to frustrate us.” he added.