By Dapo Akinrefon
THE Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Mr. Mike Igini, Thursday, commended the sentencing of a professor of soil science at the University of Calabar, Peter Ogban, saying the judgement will help to restore and reinforce public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.
A High Court sitting in Akwa Ibom State on Thursday sentenced Professor Ogban to three years in prison for manipulating election results.
Ogban was the returning officer in the senatorial election in Akwa Ibom North-West in 2019. He was prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The court found him guilty of altering results of the election to favour the All Progressives Congress, APC, against the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Reacting to the judgement, Igini said: “Well, l should say that those who desire or crave the honour of a king should not break the law of the land, otherwise they will forfeit public respect.
“So what happened is a watershed development that will help to restore and reinforce public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process, under the leadership Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and his commitment to a sane electoral environment.
“I dare say that the institution of representative democracy will have no hopeful future if those who try to undermine it like this professor and many others are not held accountable for their conduct.”
Asked whether he saw the action of the professor as lack of awareness of the consequences of his conduct, Igini said: “Why should we make excuse of lack of awareness for a professor?
“Someone of presumed integrity, but who intentionally and deliberately manipulated collated votes by his colleagues to produce a different outcome?
“In any case, ignorance no matter how acute, is not an excuse in law. I was on radio stations and television before the 2019 election after we had relocated 23 polling units from private premises.
“Drawing attention to conducts that are punishable under the law and urged all who will be engaged as poll officials not to engage in any fraudulent and criminal conduct as severe consequences awaits any and all who deviate from the highest principles of ethical standards.
“But as we all know, pecuniary interest is, if not always, the reason why people indulge in criminal conducts and there are consequences.
“Let me be clear, we take no pleasure in the avoidable fate that has befallen the Professor. Our concern is public trust that, as officials who were given the task to protect the votes of the people, we did our job and ensured that those who failed to do theirs, who in fact betrayed the trust of the Commission and more importantly, the people of Akwa Ibom State for transient rewards, have been brought to justice.
“Whoever is planning electoral manipulation or fraud of any kind in future elections can no longer scoff at the Law. Such individuals must now view electoral offences as a possible career-damaging endeavour.”