AGF Charges Two INEC Officials to Court for Electoral Offences

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Abubakar Malami
Abubakar Malami

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has charged two officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with electoral offences allegedly committed in the last general election in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the AGF on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, said yesterday that the defendants were alleged to have “falsified results in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate against the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate.”

The defendants, charged with five counts of electoral offences before the Federal High Court in Abuja, are 36-year-old Sulaiman Ikhuoriah, and 50-year-old Olugbenga Omotiloye.

Ikhuoriah was said to have served as the Collation Officer for Ward 6 in Saint Maria Gorreti Secondary School.

On his part, Omotiloye allegedly served as an electoral officer at Bishop Kelly, beside St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Airport Road, Benin City, Edo State.

A Principal State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the Federal Ministry of Justice, who filed the charges on behalf of the AGF stated in the case summary filed in court that the defendants were invited for interrogation on February 27, 2019 and March 5, 2019 following a petition by the member representing Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma.

The prosecution alleged that Ikhuoriah, “without lawful excuse,” acted in breach of his official duty by placing a call to the petitioner, Agbonayinma, and requested gratification for the purpose of delivering his Ward to his party during the elections.

Ikhuoriah was said to have erroneously made the call, thinking he was discussing with the PDP chairman, not knowing that Agbonayinma, whom he was having the conversation with, was of the APC.

The defendant was also accused of receiving N100,000 as bribe for delivering the Ward for PDP’s candidate in the election.

His alleged offences were said to be punishable under Section 124 (b) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

Also, the prosecution alleged that Omotiloye, while serving as INEC electoral officer on the March 2, 2019 at Bishop Kelly, beside St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Airport Road, Benin City held a meeting with one Ise-Edehen and collected the sum of N100,000 as gratification.

The sum collected on March 2 was said to be in appreciation of his effort in ensuring that PDP won the election during the February 23 National Assembly polls in the Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State

Summarising the case in a court filing, the prosecuting counsel, Labaran, stated, “My Lord, the summary of this case is electoral malpractices, perpetrated by the defendants who were the INEC Collation Officer and INEC Electoral Officer respectively during the February 23, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Ikpoba-Okha LGA, Edo State.

“The defendants have acted in breach of their official duties by been involved in electoral malpractices including bribery and conspiracy.

“The defendants were invited for interview on February 27, 2019 and March 5, 2019 following a petition by the member representing Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, E.J. Agbonayinma (Hon.), where his Techno Ponvair (Model LA7) with GSM No. 0803-428-5260 was exploited. Thus, some incriminating text messages between him and one Matthew Urhoghide (Senator), with GSM No. 0803-3385-5557, Adaeze Onubagu with GSM No. 0703-528-5622 were found on the device.

“The suspects made voluntary statements under caution, and admitted collecting the sum of N100, 000.00 (one hundred thousand Naira) only from Ise-Idehen, as appreciation.

“My Lord, during the trial, the prosecution shall lead evidence to prove the guilt of the defendant based on credible and undisputed facts.”

Some of the counts instituted against them read, “That you Sulaiman Ikhuoriah, male, 36 years old, of No. 13 Aisosa Street, off Okhoro Road, Benin City, Edo State, on 26th February, 2019 at Mr. Biggs, opposite the NNPC Mega Filling Station, Sapele Road Benin City, received the sum of N100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira) only as bribe for delivering your Ward, thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 124 (b) of Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended).

“That you, Olugbenga Omotilayo, male, 50 years old, of Plot 1, Longe Street, Oko Central, Benin City, Edo State, on the 25th February, 2019 was directed by Senator Matthew Urhoghide not to take the Senatorial election’s result to Eghosa Grammer School which you complied in clear breach of your lawful duty, you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 123 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended).”