At the resumed sitting of the Akwa Ibom State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, the Returning Officer for Essien Udim Constituency in the 2019 National Assembly election, Dr. William Olosunde, denied reports suggesting that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Mike Igini, directed him to cancel Senator Godswill Akpabio’s votes.
Olasunde stated this while reacting to report from some news platforms that he Olosunde stated that at the resumed hearing of the petition by Akpabio challenging the declaration of Senator Chris Ekpenyong as winner of the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District by INEC, the results, which had already been collated at the local government and Senatorial district offices of the commission, showing that Akpabio had won convincingly were cancelled on the orders of Igini in his office in Uyo.
In his testimony before the Tribunal in Uyo, in the petition by Emmanuel Akpan of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the election of Nsikak Ekong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Ikot Ekpene House of Representatives seat, Olosunde said he had no contact with Igini during the collation process of the February 23, 2019 election contrary to what was reported in the media.
Olosunde explained that it was when he entered the hall to announce his results that he saw Igini among the panel members on the table and it was the last result they were waiting for.During cross examination, counsel to PDP, Solomon Umoh (SAN), drew his attention to a publication in The Sun Newspaper of July 22, that he said Igini instructed him to cancel Akpabio,s votes, the astonished lecturer told the court: “My lord, I never at any point, anywhere, said to anybody and even at this tribunal, that Mike Igini asked me to cancel elections in some wards in Essien Udim.
“If anybody quoted me as saying that Igini directed me to cancel election in Essien Udim, such a person is lying…I was told that my result was the one they were awaiting before going to Abuja. I entered and saw Igini sitting on the High Table. l announced my result and left. He never spoke or gave me instruction.”
The Returning Officer maintained that elections in Essien Udim were marred by “over voting, absence of units’ results, thuggery and electoral violence,” which he said necessitated the cancellation.He confirmed before the tribunal that from the total number of accredited voters in the area during that election was 19,455 as captured by the smart card reader report Exhibit R153, while the petitioner Emmanuel Akpan is laying claims to 52,265 votes flaunted in Exhibit R 151.
The University lecturer further told the tribunal that due to the absence of Units’ results to back the Ward results brought by Ward Collation Officers, Seven wards were canceled.He said: “Ikpe Annang was the first ward that we cancelled when Dr. David Edem came with the figures without any Polling Unit result, followed by Ukana West 1 and two others. I wrote it on the result sheet that the result could not stand since there were no units’ result to back the ward results brought for collation.”
When cross examined by Mr. S. I. Ameh (SAN), counsel to the petitioner, Olosunde said, it was the Electoral Officer, who had drawn “my attention to the absence of Polling Unit’s results after I had started collation, and he took me to the Head of Operations on Monday February 2, 2019, not Mike Igini…who communicated INEC Guidelines and Electoral Act to me.”
Olosunde declared that it was the same measure and smart card reader report for the presidential, senatorial and Federal House of Representatives elections that were used, stressing: “Whether the card reader authenticates the owner of the PVC or not, it would show on the card reader as success or failure. The figures of successful and failed authentication would both be captured by the card reader to show the total number of voters who turned out for the elections.”
According to Olosunde, once a voter fails to be authenticated by the card reader, he is made to thumbprint on the voters’ register, write his phone number before the box next to his picture on the register can be ticked before allowed to vote.
“My lord, when the card reader is opened at the end of voting, the total number of failed accreditation and successful accreditations must correspond with the number on the voters register,” he added.On the claim that he absconded, Olosunde asserted: “I did not abscond. After invasion by thugs, we started collation again to follow due procedure. The Electoral Officer (EO) invited me aside and said that if we want to leave that collation centre alive, we should suspend collation and I informed others.”
But when Ameh confronted Olosunde with Form EC8C (1), Essien Udim results, he stated, “I asked Prof. David Edem, the first collation officer that showed up to give me unit results, Form EC8A(1), which are unit results, after I had started entering from EC8B(1), which are ward results. He said he did not have.
“Another Ward Collation officer, Dr. Ngozika Oleforo, showed up with the same case for Ukana West 1. I reported to the EO, who said he would take the woman to the REC, Mike Igini, to explain how she got those results.“I marked on Form EC8C(1), which is the original result for Essien Udim, that I have not seen unit results for Ikpe Annang and the result there cannot stand. It is clearly written there. This is why the result for those wards did not stand. The same thing applied to Ukana West 1.”
Apparently not pleased with the indiscriminate calling of Igini’s name and misrepresentation on some issues at the proceedings, the tribunal chairman Justice Wasiu Oladejo Akanbi, flanked by two other members, Justice Oyakumo Douglas Etebu and Justice Hafiz Sharif Tahir warned against dragging Igini’s name to the mud.He noted that irrespective of whatever the media decide to write, the testimonies of witnesses are recorded in the proceedings of the court as proof.