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Again, APC Denies Manipulating Akwa Ibom Election Tribunal

By Ayo Balogun

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has again denied allegation by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that it is using security agencies and other forceful means to manipulate proceedings at the Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

While addressing a press in Lagos Monday, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed held, instead, the PDP had recently been engaged in what was undoubtedly an orchestrated campaign of misinformation on the proceedings at the South South State’s Election Petition Tribunal, as well as embarked on a calculated move to denigrate the security agencies, especially the Department of Security Services (DSS).

Mohammed alleged that it was not by accident that the Acting National Chairman of the opposition, Uche Secondus, “has led a cacophony of other PDP voices that have been shouting themselves hoarse in an effort to pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians and distort the real situation with regard to the ruling party candidate’s petition, Mr. Umana Umana.

Narrating, APC Publicist indicated that the DSS recently invited the Akwa Ibom Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Mr. Austin Okojie, and some other officials working under him to help in their investigation into the discovery that the Commission had destroyed and attempted to destroy evidence in election petitions before the state election petition tribunals by shredding ballot papers, immersing them in water, mixing them all up and stuffing them in jute bags which were after left out in the open at the mercy of the elements, in contrast to the INEC manual for election officers 2015 (revised version) Section 2.8.5, which requires that after elections, the ballot papers should be preserved unit by unit in sealed envelopes.

Mohammed who provided the pictorial evidences of voting materials destruction that it was the same (evidence) available to DSS that made it launched investigation to determine those responsible for the criminal acts.

“The state of electoral materials discovered in the course of the forensic examination ordered by the tribunal was so bad that we now know why INEC, in concert with the PDP, did everything to stop the forensic examination of the ballot papers. They were petrified by their knowledge of what the forensic examination would reveal. INEC disobeyed three valid orders of the tribunal authorizing the Petitioner to conduct the forensic examination. After discovering that we had taken photographs of ballot papers from Itu, Ibesikpo, Ika and Uruan that showed the twisted and mangled state of the election material, they stopped us from scanning the remaining local government areas” alleged the APC image maker.

Alhaji Mohammed also accused “On the few days that INEC allowed the forensic examination, their staff turned up several hours late. In fact, we lost the first seven days of the 14-day period because INEC said the officer with the key to the store where the ballot papers were kept in Abuja was still in Uyo. INEC officials who have been the masterminds of the criminal sabotage and disobedience of the valid orders of the tribunal, and were asked to account for what happened to the ballot papers, include Emmanuel Agu, Electoral Officer (EO) in charge of Essien Udim; Obinna, EO in charge of Uyo; Uche Okorie, head of legal, Uyo; and their overall boss, Austin Okojie, the Akwa Ibom State REC”.

He challenged: “We make bold to say that civil servants would not carry on with this level of criminal impunity if they have not come under some influence that is contrary to the good of society. As a matter of fact, it is a reflection of the impunity that was mindlessly perpetrated under the PDP that the former ruling party would misrepresent legitimate investigation into crimes as harassment. We would like the PDP to tell Nigerians which country that operates by the rule of law would tolerate the willful, deliberate destruction of evidence in a matter that is before a court of law”.

Alhaji Mohammed held that the PDP’s noise was meant to divert attention from its collusion with compromised officers in INEC to institutionalize criminal impunity in the electoral process, asking: “Is the PDP saying that law enforcement agents should fold their hands and watch INEC officials break the law with impunity, destroying evidence without accountability? The PDP is rising to the defence of INEC officials who are asked to account for their official actions. Is the PDP, by their meddlesomeness, suggesting that those INEC officials are members of the defeated ruling party?”

The party publicist clarified that the military and other security agencies were deployed to the states in the Niger Delta so as to secure the last general elections and ensure the safety of the voters, because of the threats posed by violence before, during and after the polls, adding that that the situation was beyond the APC.

Mohammed however urged any of the parties so interested, could  as it did, subpoenaed  the security agencies, noting that to extrapolate from this that the APC was using the security agencies to harass and intimidate the Tribunals was simply “a lie and absolutely irresponsible”.

On invasion by the men of DSS, of Akwa Ibom State House, Mohammed also denied that his party was not privy to the reasons for the security outfit’s action, yet noted it had no doubt that the security agency acted within its area of competence and authority.

“We do not see any connection between the search by the DSS and our candidate’s petition before the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal. We therefore reject any attempt by the desperate and paranoid PDP to cite the DSS action as another instance of the APC-led Federal Government supposed plan to influence the work of the Tribunal. To be sure, our governments will never micromanage the judiciary, and we also hereby restate our strong believe in the ability of the courts to do their work without fear or favour” the ruling party Spokesman stressed.

Alhaji Mohammed implored the PDP to have confidence in the Judiciary and stop peddling lies about the work of the Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the role of the security agencies.

He added the opposition should deploy their energy to make their case at the Tribunal instead of whipping up emotions and sentiments that have nothing to do with reality.

APC, its Spokesperson said urged Nigerians to strongly and dispassionately scrutinize the issues it has raised, especially the evidence of what INEC officials, “working in cahoots with the PDP, did to the ballot papers used for the last general elections in Akwa Ibom, to see whether the electoral officials adhered strictly to the INEC Manual for the 2015 elections”.


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