Following the judgement of the Appeal Court in Calabar regarding the conduct of a fresh election in Essien Udim Local Government Area in 90 days, reports have it that Senator Akpabio is making plans to redeploy the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Mike Igini and other security operatives who’ll likely stand in his way at the rerun.
It would be recalled that the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, Cross River State had on Friday, November 8, ruled in favour of Sen. Akpabio, and nullified the election of Dr. Chris Ekpenyong on grounds that he was wrongly declared winner of the February 23, 2019 National Assembly election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
As a result of the ruling, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was ordered to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Dr. Chris Ekpenyong and conduct fresh elections in the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District within 90 days.
A source in Akpabio’s camp has however disclosed that the Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State is currently tense over his chances of winning the elections especially with the statement explaining the true state of things issued by the commission on Sunday, November 10.
The statement titled: “2019 ELECTIONS IN ESSIEN UDIM LGA: APPEAL COURT VINDICATES INEC” and signed by Don Etukudo, the state INEC Public Affairs Officer, asserts that the Court of Appeal only affirmed the position of the Commission “that the widespread violence and irregularities during elections in Essien Udim LGA, had vitiated the outcome of the elections in that LGA”.
The statement adds that “the Court re-affirmed as valid and preserved the elections as declared by the Commission in 9 out of the 10 LGAs that make up Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District”.
“It, however, ordered a rerun of the Senatorial election within 90 days in Essien Udim LGA ONLY, where the Commission had decried the massive rigging and manipulations that culminated in the dubious award of 61,329 votes to Senator Akpabio alone in the LGA, intended to upturn the results of the other 9 LGAs. This was when the accreditation figure from the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), confirmed by ticks on the Voter Register for the entire Essien Udim stood at just 19,455. The Commission rejected this travesty and maintained its position despite pressure, blackmail and threats to lives of lNEC officials”, the statement explains.
“The Court also ordered fresh elections in the same Essien Udim LGA in respect of the House of Representatives seat while upholding elections in Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara, the other two LGAs that constitute the Federal Constituency. The State Constituency judgment is being awaited”, it informs.
“Nigerians will recall that Essien Udim was the only State Constituency (of the 26) where INEC did not declare anyone winner or make a return on account of the violence and irregularities reported by the Commission’s field staff and corroborated by the Press as well as local and international observers”, the statement reminds.
“As widely reported then, thugs had gone on rampage in most parts of the LGA as soon as the polls were open. They snatched and stuffed ballot boxes, foreclosed the use of SCRs, brutalized INEC ad hoc personnel and prevented voters from exercising their franchise. The brigandage got to a climax when Senator Akpabio personally led the thugs to overrun INEC office in the LGA. Staff were held hostage for hours, TVC Television news crew and even foreign observers were assaulted while they fretfully doctored election results”.
“The decision of the Commission not to condone or reward the impunity in Essien Udim was earlier upheld by the Elections Petition Tribunal in Uyo before the appeal”.
“This affirmation of the Commission’s position as exemplified by the Appeal Court ruling is victory for the electoral process and is heartily welcomed by the Commission”, the statement concludes, adding that details pertaining to the rerun elections will be announced by the Commission at a later date.
Sequel to this development, our source revealed that Akpabio has liaised with the INEC Chairman, Prof Yakubu Mahmood and the presidency to ensure that Igini is redeployed to forestall a second failure at the rerun.
Members of the public will again recall that before the election in February, Akpabio had printed fake ballot papers and written results on them which he intended using for the election in his constituency.
He was able to replace some of the results with the help of some security operatives attached to him but he could not manipulate the entire election, due to the stiff resistance he met from the INEC.
One of the confessions at the tribunal is said to have revealed that the results he could not change was captured and locked them up to clear his tracks.
“As it stands, he is making frantic efforts to replace Igini with another REC within the zone that will help him secure victory”, the source said.
“If he resigns as the Minister of Niger Delta, there’s going to be likely no chance of him to win so he’s trying to perfect a win/win by redeploying Mike Igini, and some security operatives who may not be in terms with his agreement”, the inside source disclosed.
“He has told the secretary to the federal government and the Chief of staff to the President, Abba Kyari to see to this”, the source said.