By Paul Ajayi
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio, has refuted claim that the jailed INEC Electoral Officer, Prof. Peter Ogban was convicted for rigging election in favour of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Akpabio said this in a statement on Saturday in Abuja by his Chief Press Secretary,Mr Aniete Ekong, while reacting to the claim by Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), that Ogban was working towards rigging the election in his favour.
Ekong described the claim as spurious, unfounded and malicious.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ogban, a professor of Soil Science at the University of Calabar was sentenced to three years imprisonment by an Akwa Ibom High Court for electoral fraud.
This was after he was found guilty of fraudulent manipulation of the election results of Akwa Ibom North- West Senatorial District held on Feb. 23, 2019.
Akpabio who was APC’s candidate at the election seeking re-election to the Senate, said in the statement that he was rather a victim of the fraudulent manipulation of the election.
“In their desperation in a continuing campaign of calumny against Akpabio, they twisted the context of the judgment and maliciously claimed that the election was rigged in his favour.
“Nothing could be further from the truth, the facts of the case put a lie to this assertion.
“Contrarily, Akpabio was a victim of the fraudulent manipulation of the election of Akwa Ibom North- West Senatorial District held on Feb. 23, 2019.
“He is vindicated that the perpetrators of the electoral fraud are being brought to justice, at last the chickens are coming home to roost,”he said.
Ekong said Akpabio did approached the National Assembly Election Tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election.
“In that election, Akpabio’s votes totaling about 61,329 scored at his home Local Government Area (LGA)– Essien Udim, having been collated, were not announced by Ogban in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“Rather, Ogban who served as the Senatorial District Returning Officer joined the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Uyo where the votes and scores of Akpabio were cancelled in various polling units and collation centers of various LGAs constituting Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.
“This was including 61,329 votes of his home LGA,” he said.
He added that the National Assembly Election Tribunal and the Court of Appeal invalidated the election and a rerun was ordered in Essien Udim LGA.
He said sentencing Ogban had vindicated Akpabio and the APC that the election was massively rigged.
He wondered why Akpabio would challenge the outcome of the election up to the Court of Appeal which upheld his appeal and ordered a rerun election if he was a beneficiary of the election fraud.
“For the avoidance of doubt Ogban never announce Akpabio as the winner of any election, instead he cancelled his lawful votes and announced his 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.
“It is obvious that some persons are being haunted by the ghost of the last election which they massively manipulated to reach a predetermined conclusion, a position which was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Calabar.
“In due time, we believe all the conspirators will be brought to justice as Ogban, either through the judiciary or divine intervention,” he said.
He, however, added that Akpabio had since moved on to face his present national assignment and would not be distracted by baseless and unfounded reports by the PDP hatchet men and mischief makers.