The All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom has accused a former governor of the state of bribing an electoral chief to frustrate the party’s petition.
The APC on Friday alleged that former Governor Godswill Akpabio, now Senator, bribed the INEC Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom, Austin Okojie, with N2.5 billion to frustrate the party’s petition challenging the election of Udom Emmanuel as governor.
In a petition on July 8 addressed to the Director General of the Department of State Security and the Inspector General of Police, the APC, through its legal counsel, Victor Iyanam, accused Mr. Okojie of collecting the bribe from the former governor to work against its interest and that of its governorship candidate, Okon Umanah, at the tribunal.
Mr. Iyanam alleged that the bribe was paid by the former governor’s government prior to the April elections to compromise the REC and make him feel “obliged to complete the corrupt process by doing everything possible to frustrate the governorship elections petition of the APC candidate.”
He said the APC was compelled to issue the petition after several complaints against the continued refusal by INEC in the state to grant access to the party to inspect election materials, despite the May 12 and 23 as well as June 25, 2015 orders of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal for Akwa Ibom State.
Following allegations of threats to security by the APC, the Federal Government had approved the relocation of the tribunal from Uyo to Abuja, while all materials associated with the poll were later also moved to Abuja.
To ensure full compliance with the directive to transfer the election materials to Abuja for the forensic analysis and inspection to be conducted in a free and fair environment, Mr. Iyanam said the tribunal had also ordered that officials of the DSS and police be available during the inspection exercise.
The APC, however, said Mr. Okojie had neither obeyed any of the orders of the tribunal, nor cooperated with the party to carry out the inspection “principally (due) to the fact that the sum of N2.5 Billion was disbursed to him by the previous government of Chief Godswill Akpabio prior to the general elections.”
Mr. Iyanam cited instances where claimed the REC had demonstrated commitment to frustrate the APC, accusing him of bringing only some of the sensitive election materials from Uyo to Abuja and ensuring that they were not handed over to anybody for custody.
Consequently, he said as at July 8, 2015 the APC has not been able to access the materials since they arrived Abuja, with the July 20, 2015 deadline for the completion of the inspection fast approaching.
“The objective of the delay tactics employed by Mr. Okojie on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is to prevent the APC candidate from using the evidence to effectively prosecute his case at the election tribunal,” Mr. Iyanam said.
Other INEC officials accused by the APC of working against its interest include the Head of the Legal Services department of INEC in Akwa Ibom, Uche Okorie, and his counterpart at the INEC headquarters. The party accused them of conniving to abandon in the rain election materials brought from Uyo to Abuja.
Besides, with formal trial in the petition scheduled to commence on July 14, 2015 and to last only 14 days, Mr. Iyanam said the deliberate delay in completing the forensic inspection of the materials was to ensure that the APC and its candidate would not be able to gather sufficient evidence to prosecute their petition.
The APC accused Mr. Okojie and his officials of working to cause “irreparable damage to the election materials,” as most of the documents brought from Uyo were already destroyed on arrival in Abuja.
“Water was deliberately poured into the bags of materials, while some were kept under the rain, contrary to the established practice of keeping the materials in envelops according to their polling units,” the party said.
The party listed some of the election materials that were mutilated and destroyed to include Polling Unit Result Sheets, Form EC 8A for the 2982 units in the state; Ward Result sheets, Form EC 8B for the 329 Wards; and Local Government Result Sheet, Form EC 8C for the 31 Local Government Areas.
“The conduct of the REC, absolutely criminal in content, reckless in execution and done with impunity, is not only a breach of public trust, but would have catastrophic consequences if allowed to go unpunished in order to serve as a deterrent,” the APC said.