By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal Government has preferred criminal charges against two officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, accused of manipulating election results in Edo State.
The officials, who were alleged to have engaged in electoral malpractices during the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections held in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo state, are facing a a five-count charge that was endorsed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
They will be tried before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
According to a statement from media aide to the AGF, Mr. Salihu Isah, the defendants are Sulaiman Ikhuoriah, male, 36 years old, who served as Collation Officer for Ward 6 in Saint Maria Gorreti Secondary School, and Olugbenga Omotiloye, male, 50 years.
It was alleged that the duo falsified results in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, against the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate.
He said the charge against the defendants, which was entered on Monday by a Principal State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecution of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Magaji Labaran, was pursuant to Sections 104 and 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Specifically, the defendants, were said to have committed the offence in their capacity as electoral officials on and around February 23, during the Presidential and National Assembly polls in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State.
They were alleged to have, “conspired among themselves and with others now at large and upon receipt of an offer to procure the return of the PDP and its candidate in the House of Representatives elections for Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal Constituency in Edo State, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 123 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended)”.
Ikhuoriah was also alleged to without lawful excuse, acted in breach of his official duty, by placing a call to one Honourable Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma and requested him through a telephone conversation for gratification for the purpose of delivering his ward to his party, the PDP, during the elections.
“This he did erroneously thinking he was discussing with the PDP chairman, not knowing he was talking to Hon. Agbonyinma of APC.
“By doing this, he has committed an offence punishable under Section 124 (b) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“The Collation Officer is also accused to have received the sum of a hundred thousand naira as bribe for delivering the ward for his supposed paymaster, the PDP candidate; which is an offence punishable under Section 124 (b) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“On his part, and as count four, the Electoral Officer, Olugbenga Omotiloye while serving in his capacity as INEC electoral officer on the 2nd day of March, 2019 at Bishop Kelly, beside St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Airport Road, Benin City held a meeting with Honourable Ise-Edehen and collected the sum of one hundred thousand naira as gratification.
“The sum collected is said to be in appreciation of his effort in ensuring that PDP won the election during the February 23rdNational Assembly polls for Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area”, the statement added.
Besides, in count five, it was alleged that Omotiloye, on February 25, was directed by one Senator Matthew Urhoghide, not to take the Senatorial election’s result to Eghosa Grammer School, a directive he was said to have complied with, “in clear breach of his lawful duty thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 123 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Some of the counts in the charge the AGF entered against the defendants, read: “That you Sulaiman Ikhuoriah, male, 36 years old, of No. 13 Aisosa Street, off Okhoro Road, Benin City, Edo State, on 26th February, 2019 at Mr. Biggs, opposite the NNPC Mega Filling Station, Sapele Road Benin City, received the sum of N100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira) only as bribe for delivering your Ward, thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 124 (b) of Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended).”
“That you, Olugbenga Omotilayo, male, 50 years old, of Plot 1, Longe Street, Oko Central, Benin City, Edo State, on the 25th February, 2019 was directed by Senator Matthew Urhoghide not to take the Senatorial election’s result to Eghosa Grammer School which you complied in clear breach of your lawful duty, you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 123 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended)”.
The case summary revealed that the defendants were interrogated on February 27 and March 5, following a petition that was lodged by the member representing Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, E.J. Agbonayinma (Hon.), where his Techno Ponvair (Model LA7) with GSM No. 0803-428-5260 was exploited.
“Some incriminating text messages between him and one Matthew Urhoghide (Senator), with GSM No. 0803-3385-5557, Adaeze Onubagu with GSM No. 0703-528-5622 were found on the device.
“The suspects made voluntary statements under caution, and admitted collecting the sum of N100, 000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira) only from Ise-Idehen (Hon.), as appreciation. My Lord, during the trial, the prosecution shall lead evidence to prove the guilt of the defendant based on credible and undisputed facts”, the statement added.