The Akwa Ibom State Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has countered allegations from the state All Progressives Congress (APC) that a staff of the Commission was arrested with “recalibrated card readers” suggesting that the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mike Igini is engaging Card Reader Technicians to help him validate his doctored 2019 election results in the State”.
A release signed by the State Commission’s Public Affairs Officer (PAO), Mr. Don Etukudoh, described the allegation as a ploy to “deceive the public, blackmail the commission and score cheap political points and sympathy”.
He informed that the said staff, Mr. Ejike Nwankwo, works in the ICT department which custodies the Commission’s Card Readers.
“He was stopped by the Police on a routine Stop-and-Search on Friday 17, May, 2019 at about 3pm and four (4 nos) empty Smart Card Readers were found in his car trunk. He was not arrested on Sunday by 2am as mischievously alleged by the Akwa Ibom State APC. The four empty card readers were used for training of Ad-hoc Staff by the officer during the elections. The four Card Readers do not have data in them that could have influenced or affected the process or outcome of the elections”, he said.
The PAO explained further that the officer took ill immediately after the 2019 General Elections and was hospitalised at St. Athanasius Hospital, Uyo for about a month.
“Because of the illness, the officer could not return the Card Readers to the ICT department but left them in his car which was taken to the mechanic by his brother-in-law while the officer was in the hospital”, he stated.
Mr. Etukudoh maintained that “in the hierarchy of reporting, the officer does not report directly to the Commissioner but to his Unit Head who reports to his Head of Department who then reports to the Commissioner”.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini Esq, has been away from the State and country to South Africa and Malawi where he delivered lectures preparatory to those countries’ elections and could not have engaged anyone for any unwholesome purpose as alleged”, he stressed.
He held that the APC was fond of misinterpreting the Commission’s motives and recalled that “when an INEC vehicle on a legitimate duty was involved in an accident at Abak, the Akwa Ibom State APC instead of sympathizing with the Commission, went to town with a wild story that it was conveying ballot papers thumb printed in favour of APC on its way to being burnt at Uyo”.
“Among many other instances of mischief against the Commission, the APC also alleged that they were denied access to inspect election materials as ordered by the Election Tribunal even when they were the one that rebuffed invitation to inspect same materials”, Etukudoh said.
He maintained that Commission in the State remains resolute in its pursuit of democratic ideals and would not be veered-off its course irrespective of the amount of blackmail or intimidation.
“This clarification is made solely in the interest of the general public”, he concluded.