The National Assembly Election Petitions, sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, was Monday told how an Electoral Officer for Obot Akara Local Government Area, Prof. Abag Elkana and the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), for the state, Mike Igini, influenced the declaration of the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Chris Ekpenyong as the winner of the February 23 Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District to the disadvantage of the All Progressives Congress’ candidate, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
A former Governor of the state, Akpabio is challenging the declaration of Ekpenyong by INEC as the winner of the declaration of Ekpenyong at the tribunal.
Tiebat Joshua, the petitioner’s witness who said he is a farmer and politician, told the tribunal that immediately after the election of the senatorial district of February 23, as agent of the Akpabio in Obot Akara Local Government Area, Prof Elkana invited him to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s office in Uyo to meet with Igini, where they begged him to accept the result marred with over voting from the local government.
Responding to how he knew the result was manipulated under cross examination by U. U. Njoku, counsel to the first respondent, Ekpenyong, Joshua said that he knew through the Returning officer for the local government, Prof. Abang Elkana, who persuaded him to accept the result figur as declared in favour of the PDP candidate, Senator Ekpenyong, after the election had earlier been cancelled by the Returning Officer due to over voting.
Joshua said: “My Lords, after the cancellation of Obot-Akara election results due to over voting, I was taken to the office of the REC, Mike Igini, in Uyo by the Electoral Officer of Obot-Akara.
“When we got there, Igini begged me to support the cancellation of the election results from Obot-Akara Local Government to enable the PDP candidate to be declared winner and I said No. But they went ahead to revalidate the results in Igini’s office and Ekpenyong was declared winner in Uyo instead of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District office of INEC”.
He said the figure on the result sheet was changed from 19,632 to 20,117 in favour of the PDP, saying if the figures from the 11 wards in the local government were calculated, the overrall figure of 20,117 on the INEC result sheet would be wrong.
Joshua said he had protested the result immediately after it was declared at the local government level because of the discrepancies in the result sheet.
He said based on his protestation, he was invited to INEC where both Elkana and Igini begged him to accept the result, which he rejected.
He expressed surprise of the several cancellations on the result sheet presented by INEC in court, adding it was only one cancellation on the result as the time he signed the sheet and he protested before appending his signature.
He accused Prof. Elkana of being a card carrying member of the PDP. “He is a full PDP member. When he contested for local government chairman on the platform of the PDP sometime ago, I was his agent,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, Joshua before his testimony, told the tribunal that he got a call from Ekpenyong two days before Monday, warning him not to come to the tribunal to give evidence in favour of the petitioner.
“Two days ago, I received a call from Ekpenyong who is a leader of PDP, he threatened to kill me if I come to testify against him today,” he told the court.
The Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice W.O Akanbi, ruled him out on the ground that his counsel knows what to do.
“When a witness is threatened, a counsel knows what to do,” he said.
Also, testifying before the tribunal, Akpabio’s agent for the senatorial district, Ibanga Ime Akpabio, said he was surprised that the election was declared in favour of the PDP and its candidate, Ekpenyong after obvious manipulation by the electoral umpire.