Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Despite incontrovertible evidence pointing to his complicity, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has denied that Peter Ogban the university professor jailed for election fraud, rigged the election in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Akpabio disputed this allegation in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Aniete Ekong yesterday, saying he was rather a victim of the fraudulent manipulation of the election of Akwa Ibom North West February 23, 2019.
Akpabio, the APC candidate, was defeated in the election by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Chris Ekpenyong and his hope of returning to the Senate dashed.
The Akwa Ibom State High Court 2 sitting in the Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area had sentenced Ogban to three years imprisonment and also imposed a fine of N100,000 for the electoral fraud he committed during the 2019 elections in the state.
The case, considered as a landmark in Nigeria’s election history, was prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Before his conviction and sentencing, Ogban, in one of the court sessions, clearly told the court how the results of the district election were falsified in Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo local government areas to give the APC an unfair advantage over its main rival, the PDP.
For instance, 5,000 fake votes were added to the APC’s score in Oruk Anam, in the election.
Ogban, during cross examination by the prosecution counsel, admitted that the votes he entered for both APC and the PDP in the two local government areas were not taken from results collated at the constituency.
As his defence, he said the votes he entered were “read out” to him by the local government areas returning officers.
However, two INEC witnesses – John Enoidem and Itemobong Ekaidem – contradicted the professor’s claim.
The witnesses, who are university lecturers, were collation officers in the two local government areas. They told the court that what Mr Ogban entered as scores for APC and PDP were not what they presented to him.
Despite evidence from court processes, Akpabio yesterday said the claim by the PDP that Ogban, who was convicted for rigging election in favour of the APC and himself, was not true, unfounded and malicious.
He said: “The question is: who was the beneficiary of the electoral fraud and manipulation in Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District? Certainly not 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?
“For the avoidance of doubt, Ogban never announced Akpabio as the winner of any election. Instead, he cancelled his lawful votes and announced 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 Akpabio.”
He noted that PDP”s desperation in a continuing campaign of calumny against him, the INEC in Akwa Ibom State allegedly twisted the context of the judgment and maliciously claimed that the election was rigged in his favour.
Akpabio said that he had been vindicated that the perpetrators of the electoral fraud were being brought to justice.