From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, has explained that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will not change its report on the State Congress of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held in October 2021.
The Congress recognised Mr. Austin Ekanem as the winner and chairman of the Akwa Ibom APC State Executive.
This clarification is coming, even as the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, has already inaugurated a parralel State Executive Committee of the party in defiance to a Court of Appeal order, asking parties to maintain Status quo.
Igini stated this while briefing newsmen on INEC’s preparedness ahead of the 2023 general elections. He reported an increase in voter registration in Akwa Ibom State, following the creation of new polling units.
Reacting to the leadership crisis in the APC Akwa Ibom State chapter, Igini told newsmen that INEC will not compromise its stance on sanctity of the processes that birthed the Austin Ekanem-led State Executive of the party last year.
APC conducted State Congresses across the country on 16th October, 2021. In Akwa Ibom State, the Congress conducted by the 7-Member Banki Sheriff-led Election Committee, dispatched for the exercise by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee, produced Mr. Ekanem as chairman, having won the exercise, polling 1,278 votes.
However, in April 2022, the APC National Chairman inaugurated Mr. Stephen Leo Ntukekpo as chairman of the party in Akwa Ibom State.
Ntukekpo was shortly after arrested for forging the election results which he allegedly used to obtain a High Court judgement which sacked Mr. Ekanem and declared him winner of the Congress.
Reacting to the crisis in the Akwa Ibom State APC chapter, Igini wondered how Ntukekpo who had in the original result scored 006, now scored 1006 and the person who scored 1,278, now scored 278, stressing that “this was the abracadabra that led to a crisis that is completely unnecessary. Our [INEC] report cannot change.
“May the day never come when an umpire who took an oath to always keep its oath of office will see something in the morning and see something different in the evening. May the day never come when something that we have seen to be white suddenly become black.
“Those who desire the honour of a king, an honour of office must not break the Law of the land. As a Commissíon, since October last year we have not spoken on the matter, because it is a matter for them. They are in Court that is the much I can say with respect to that.”
He added: “In respect of INEC Ad-hoc staff, who generated false results and published same in 2019 election, the trial has been ongoing since December 2020 before an Akwa Ibom State high court. The Judge just recused himself at the last sitting.
“In a democracy, effective power to govern must lie in the hands of those who are duly elected, therefore those whose actions undermine the process must be brought to book.”
Asked if INEC feels frustrated over the ongoing trial, Igini said: “Because we are talking about due process we cannot be frustrated. Once you have chosen the path of due process you don’t worry about traffic. All that we need to do and we have done is to register through a petition to the Chief Judge to chronicle how we got to this point.
”Justice is three way directional- Justice to the Commission, the prosecution, to the accused person and more importantly justice to the society that its rules have been violated.
So what we are interested in, is that justice must be done.
“Five months after the prosecution had closed its case , the accused person have failed to open its defence, coming up with all manners of frivolous objections to avoid opening his defence. I must say that there are limits to some of these Shenanigans.
”Since 2020 the idea is to frustrate the case so that justice will not be done. The defense Lawyer accused the Judge of bias, without proof, no evidence, or instances where the judge could be accused in the entire trial of bias. Such an accusation must not be taken lightly.
“And where a counsel deploy accusation of bias as a strategy to blackmail a judge, the judge is required to demonstrate the courage in line with the judicial oath to continue with that matter because what he is trying to do is for the case to start afresh.