APC, INEC in tug-of-war over polls materials in Akwa Ibom - Nation News Lead

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APC, INEC in tug-of-war over polls materials in Akwa Ibom

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Akwa Ibom State under the watch of Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Mike Igini is in a tug-of-war with the lawyers of the All Progressives Congress, APC, over the inspection of election materials in respect of ongoing petitions at the tribunal.
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Some APC National Assembly candidates including Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom North West) and the governorship candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere, had approached the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in the state to challenge the outcome of the 2019 elections. Apart from Akpabio and Ekere’s petitions, the APC also has orders on five House of Representatives petitions served on INEC.  

According to INEC officials, inspection on Akpabio’s petition and one House of Representatives petition are still ongoing and were to be concluded, yesterday. 

Some APC House of Assembly contestants  also filed petitions in the tribunal but the orders are yet to be served on INEC as of press time gathered by NationNewsLead through Vanguard spokesman. 

The electoral umpire has been variously accused of denying the petitioners access to the materials, and deliberately delaying the inspection process. 

Newsmen had on Tuesday April 23 observed Senator Godswill Akpabio’s legal team sorting out the materials in INEC’s Strong Room. 

Prior to April 23, Akpabio’s lawyer, Mr. Patrick Umoh, accused the electoral umpire of denying his legal team access to the election materials. The Election Petition Tribunal chaired by Justice W.O Akanbi had on April 2 granted the petitioners an order to inspect and copy all election materials used in Akpabio’s senatorial district. 

Senator Akpabio is challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019 poll that declared his opponent, Dr. Christopher Ekpenyong of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, winner. Umoh had in press interviews alleged that INEC flouted the tribunal’s order to allow them inspect and copy the materials for litigation purposes. 

“The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has colluded with the PDP and advised the party to file a motion on April 16 which they cited as the reason they could not allow the inspection of materials as ordered by Tribunal. 

“INEC has been engaging in a hide- and seek game. Analysts believe the hide-and -seek by INEC was to give the PDP enough time to file the motion”, he had alleged. Similarly, Mr. Victor Iyanam, lead counsel to Nsima Ekere and the APC, had on  April 30 in a letter  to Mr. Mike Igini threatened to initiate contempt proceedings against the INEC over alleged refusal to comply with tribunal order on inspection of election materials. 

The Akwa Ibom governorship Election Petition Tribunal on April 15, 2019 in Petition No. EPT/AKS/ Gov/ 01/2019 chaired by Justice A. M Yakubu granted the petitioners Obong Nsima Ekere and the APC an order to inspect, copy, photocopy and obtain certified true copies of all election materials used in the March 9 governorship election in the state. 

A copy of the petition obtained by Vanguard showed that the tribunal however did not grant the petitioners prayers number 4 and 5 which included Orders to allow them to carry out forensic examination of the ballot papers, computer servers, and to carry out a recount of the ballot papers respectively. Iyanam like other counsels to the petitioners accused the electoral umpire of acting the script of the PDP In his letter, he lamented that his team was distressed by the delay, refusal and unwholesome excuses of non availability of the materials due to transport challenges, inadequate staff to carry out those duties and the fact that they (INEC) were busy with Senator Akpabio’s inspection.

 “The excuses have variously continued to be untenable in the light of the short period of time to prove our case at the Election Petition Tribunal. “We regret to state that your staff appears to be acting the script of the People Democratic Party and now behave as though they are taking instructions from you,” he said.

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