…Insists Akpabio never scored 61,329 votes
The Returning Officer for Essien Udim in the 2019 National Assembly Elections, Dr William Olosunde has dispelled the news purportedly credited to him, that the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini asked him to cancel votes scored by Senator Godswill Akpabio of the APC in the last national assembly elections.
Dr Olosunde, while testifying on Monday at the National Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, in the petition by Emmanuel Akpan of the APC against the election of Nsikak Ekong of the PDP for the Ikot Ekpene House of Representatives seat, said he had no contact with the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini during the collation process of the February 23, 2019 election.
When his attention was drawn by Counsel to the PDP, Solomon Umoh(SAN),to a publication in The Sun Newspaper crediting Mike Igini as the mastermind of the cancellation of votes in the area, the astonished lecturer quipped, “My lord, I never at any point, anywhere, to anybody and even at this tribunal, said that Mike Igini asked me to cancel elections in some wards in Essien Udim.”
“If anybody quoted me as saying that Mike Igini directed me to cancel the election in Essien Udim, such a person is lying,” Olosunde stated.
He said it was not until he entered the hall to announce his results that he saw Igini among the panel members on the table.
“I was told that my result was the one they were waiting before going to Abuja, I entered and saw Mike Igini on the High Table, announced my result and left. He never spoke or gave me instruction.”
Under examination, the Returning Officer maintained that elections in Essien Udim were marred by over-voting, absence of units’ results, thuggery and electoral violence.
The University Lecturer 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.
He told the tribunal that following the absence of Units’ results to back the Ward results brought by Ward Collation Officers, seven wards were cancelled.
“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.”
On cross-examination by 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 25/2/2019, not Mike Igini.
“It was the head of operations who communicated INEC Guidelines and Electoral Act to me,” he concluded.
Who is the Head of the INEC as a Commission? Ameh asked to which he replied, “Yakubu”
The returning officer said it was the same measure and smart card reader report for the presidential, senatorial and federal house elections.
It could be recalled that Dr William Olosunde, during the previous sitting had insisted that he did not announce 61,329 votes for the APC as claimed by Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Olosunde insisted that the said figure bandied by Akpabio and the APC was inflated by the claimants and was not a product of the election.
“I didn’t conclude collation and never announce results while at Essien Udim, so I did not give the police or any party agent any such result,” he cried.
He also said that Mr Godwin Michael Afangideh who earlier presented the result before the tribunal as APC Local Government Agent for Essien Udim was an impostor, stating that the name of the APC collation agent for the local government area written on Exhibit P534 was Hon. (Dr.) Etido Udo.
The returning officer said the February 23 elections were marred by inconsistency in the number of accredited voters, non- compliance with the electoral guidelines.
Olosunde claimed that he and other officials of INEC were beaten up at the collation centre by thugs.
The returning officer, who was confronted by Counsel to the Petitioner Sunday Ameh SAN, with the allegation that he absconded from the collation said “My lord, I did not abscond. After the invasion by thugs, we resumed collation in line with INEC guidelines.
“It was the Electoral Officer (EO) who advised me that if we wanted to leave that collation centre alive, I should suspend collation using Card Readers and escape from the centre, and I informed others.”
Olosunde said the result tendered in exhibit by the APC through Afangideh had no foundation, explaining that Dr Ngozika Oleforo the Collation Officer for Ukana West 1 Ward and Prof. David Edem the Collation Officer for Ikpe Annang Ward brought Ward results in Form EC8B without any Form EC8A, the unit results in series to back up the ward results.
“I asked Prof. David Edem, the first collation Officer that arrived to show me Form EC8A(1), which are unit results of his Ward Ikpe Annang, but he told me that he had no polling unit results and the figures representing each unit were not backed by Form EC8A(1)
“The electoral officer told him that ‘if he cannot present the unit results from where he obtained the figures on the ward result sheet, then he will have to follow us to the commission headquarters in Uyo to explain the source of the figures’.”
Olosunde said it was the inability of the ward collation to present the unit results that informed the cancellation of election in the two wards.
The RO explained that the electoral guidelines authorise the cancellation of election results where the number of votes exceeds the total number of accredited voters, insisting that the cancellation of result from the two wards was in order.
During examination which lasted for more than one hour, Olosunde said that the number of accredited voters for Essien Udim was 19,455, far less than the 61,329 votes claimed by APC.
He said due to irregularities, the results of seven of the 11 wards were cancelled.
“Seven wards were outrightly cancelled and affected units in the remaining four wards were also cancelled”
“It was the cancellation of those wards and some units that reduced the number of accredited voters to 9,964 as contained in Exhibit P534”.
“Form EC40G(1), that is Exhibits R352 and R352A are those documents I signed to formalize those cancellations, where votes outnumbered accreditation or were not backed up with accreditation at all in some wards”.
Three other witnesses, including a female NYSC member, who were presiding officers at some units in Essien Udim, also alleged that they were abducted at gunpoint to unknown locations and made to thumbprint and write results in favour of APC in their respective units.
The tribunal adjourned to Tuesday, July 23 for the continuation of hearing by the respondents.