From Joe Effiong, Uyo
A professor of Soil Physics at the University of Uyo, Peter Ogban, has been sentenced to 36-months imprisonment for election fraud.
Prof Ogban has also been fined the sum of N100,000 on another count charge still bordering on electoral malpractices after he pleaded for leniency.
An Akwa Ibom State High Court 2 sitting in Ikot Ekpene found Ogban guilty for electoral fraud levelled against him by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which indicted him on a two-count charge of fraudulently tampering with election results in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district election.
Ogban, who acted as the Collation/Returning Officer during the National Assembly elections, was accused of manipulating and falsifying the scores of the election results in Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo Local Government Areas in favour of the APC.
In his ruling, the Presiding Judge, Justice Augustine Odokwo, sentenced the academic to 36 months in prison and fined him the sum of N100,000 for counts 2 and 1, respectively.
The accused had pleaded for mercy on the premise that he has dependents, including a 90-year-old mother to take care of, adding that he was a respectable member of his community and a very valuable and sought-after lecturer in the Department of Soil Science at both University of Uyo and University of Calabar.
‘If I lose my source of income, it means all of my dependants I have mentioned will suffer, especially the condition of my aged mother,’ he said.
‘This is an eye-opener for anyone who participates in local, state or national activities to do so with dexterity and not take anything for granted to avoid an innocent person being embarrassed.
‘I should be pardoned for the inability to do this which is why I am here today. I plead that you grant me 100 per cent mercy and allow me to go and continue with my responsibilities,’ he told the judge.
Earlier, Counsel to the defendant Anthony Ekpe had prayed the court to pardon the accused, saying the act for which Ogban was found guilty had no effect on the said elections.
He argued that as a Professor of Soil Physics and Conservation, the accused was highly sought-after in the academic world and should not be deprived of his freedom.
‘It was just a blip in the entire election process and cannot be said to have been to the detriment of the party said to have suffered. It could just as well have been an oversight or a mistake.
‘We plead with my Lord not to deprive the accused of his liberty and seek particularly for another form of punishment. We plead that the court temper justice with mercy,’ he stated.
But upon the judgment of the court, Ekpe said the accused will file for an appeal.
Counsel to INEC Clement Onwenwunor, however, applauded the court for the novel ruling on the election fraud case, saying, ‘the court judgment is commendable.’
He said the law for which the accused was found guilty ‘makes provision for an option of fine or 36 months imprisonment without an option of fine.’