The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akwa Ibom State has warned Godswill Akpabio, former Senate minority leader to refrain from resorting to blackmail and lies in a bid to mislead the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, the state capital.
Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State lost the Akwa Ibom North West senate seat to Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and has approached the election petition tribunal to overturn Ekpenyong’s victory.
Reacting to media reports that Akpabio’s legal team led by Patrick Umoh had been denied access to the election materials for the purpose of inspection, the commission described such reports as baseless and mischievous .
In a statement by the commission’s head of public affairs, Don Etukudoh, a copy of which was made available to our reporter, the commission however noted that the reports were consistent with the “sustained campaign of calumny against the commission, before, during and after the elections.’’
“We find it distasteful and hard to believe that a legal practitioner can so cheaply and dishonorably lend himself for use in this unholy enterprise against his conscience and the truth.
“The truth is that a seven-man legal team of Akpabio has been in the commission and has actually commenced the process of inspecting the election materials. They were led into the Strong Room of the Commission where they sighted and confirmed that there are indeed materials and documents to be inspected.
“Since the materials are inevitably stacked in heaps, Akpabio’s team sat with INEC lawyers to work out and mutually agree on the modalities and schedule for the continuation of the inspection after the Easter holiday.
“What could they be doing in the Commission’s Strong Room, a restricted area where materials are kept, if they were not on inspection?”
“How can someone who has been availed all legitimate support and was part of the agreement to continue the inspection after the holiday, turn around to complain that they were denied access to the materials?”
The commission stated that the report was part of the sinister habit of dragging the name of the Resident Electoral Commission (REC) Mike Igini into the mud for the purpose of blackmailing him.
“We need to state here that the REC has been out of the State on official duty and has not even interacted with the external solicitors of the Commission. He had however left a standing instruction that officers of the Commission must cooperate with the legal teams in the election petitions, especially with regard to obeying every order of the Election Petition Tribunal. “
Noting that Igini has, at every forum of election stakeholders and on radio and TV discussions canvassed the view that it ought to be the responsibility of the Commission to explain all that transpire in elections being the body that midwifed, conducted and manage the election process. It stated that it would be preposterous to suggest that a Commission which is ready to discharge this burden or onus of proof would deny anyone access to materials used in the conduct of elections.
It urged the people to disregard the statement by the former minority leader’s legal team and be assured that INEC under the leadership of Mike Igini, would uphold the integrity of the electoral process.