December 4, 2020

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Nigerian professor arraigned for election fraud

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A Nigerian professor has been arraigned for election fraud in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria’s South-south.

Peter Ogban, a professor of soil science, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, was arraigned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday before a High Court judge in Ikot Ekpene, the election commission said in a statement.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The professor is accused of trying to rig the 2019 Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District election in favour of the former senator, Godswill Akpabio, of the All Progressives Congress.

Mr Akpabio lost the election to the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Chris Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State.

INEC, in its statement, did not mention Mr Akpabio by name, but it was clear they were referring to the former Senate Minority leader who is now the minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

INEC said Mr Ogban’s colleague, Ignatius Uduk, a professor in the same university, ought to have been arraigned as well, but that “he appears to be on the run”.

INEC said Mr Ogban “altered already-declared results at Polling Units and collated Ward results in Form EC8B delivered to him by Ward Collation Officers.”

“He changed the outcome of the election by reducing the score of a leading candidate by a huge five thousand (5,000) votes and increasing the losing candidate’s score by the same margin without altering the overall total valid votes cast to avoid detection.

“Unfortunately for him, there is no perfect crime as the early information trigger tracking system of the Electoral Operation Support Centre (EOSC), fully activated throughout the period of the election, exposed him,” the election commission said.

The INEC statement was signed by Odaro Aisien, who heads the department of voter education and publicity.

INEC said the other university teacher, Mr Uduk, also attempted to rig the election for Mr Akpabio.

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“Professor Ignatius Uduk, declared election results collated not by him, but by undisclosed individuals who only handed them to him to announce.

“He admitted to this fact in his own handwritten (not typed) statement that he earlier signed, even though he refused to come back to the Commission’s office for further debriefing to ascertain who delivered the prepared election results to him.

“However, in another deposition, this time in a typed written statement on oath, Prof Uduk, driven in a dark tainted vehicle to the Election Tribunal venue, surprisingly stood as a witness against the Commission, to defend the same election results he did not collate but were given to him by undisclosed persons,” INEC said.

INEC said the professor would later be arraigned.

The election commission said it was unimaginable to have university professors, who ought to be role models, involved in election fraud.

ALSO READ: INEC announces new date for six senatorial bye-elections, others

“It is hoped that the arraignment of this calibre of individuals will deter others from reprehensible conduct of this nature and serve as a touchstone for the level of seriousness and integrity expected from personnel who may participate in future elections,” INEC said.

An assistant director in INEC was dismissed for election fraud in Cross River State, while another top official begged to be allowed to resign in the state, when Mike Igini was the resident electoral commissioner in the state.

Mr Igini battled powerful politicians who were said to be bent on rigging the 2019 elections in Akwa Ibom State.

Three officials of INEC in Akwa Ibom State have been dismissed for alleged misconduct during the 2019 elections.

The commission had prevented six of its top officials from taking part in the 2019 elections because of a security report that said that their conduct was likely to undermine the integrity of the elections, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

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