INEC denies barring Akpabio’s legal team

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  • South-south elders make case for military raiding of Ateke’s home

The Independent National Election Commission, INEC, Akwa Ibom state has cleared itself of news making the rounds that it barred the legal team of Senator Godswill Akpabio from inspecting election materials as was directed by the Election Petition Tribunal.

Opinion leaders in South-south in the same vein, has condemned the incursion of the residence of the Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom in Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers State, King Ateke Tom, by supposedly military men.

Leaders Network Association of Nigerian, made this known at Okochiri recently and the condemnation was based on the attack of the King’s home during the governorship and state assembly polls.

On the INEC’s stance, Gbaramatu Voice received a statement in Uyo on April 20 2019, titled “Election Tribunal: Akpabio should stop blackmail and lies” and signed by Public Affairs Officer INEC, Akwa Ibom, Mr. Don Etukudo.

The Commission asked the public in Akwa Ibom and by extension across the country, not to take the statement by Akpabio’s legal team as truth.

The statement further added that the leadership of Mike Igini, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, could not be bias and dubious with electoral process. This, the statement said that lawyers were men of honour and the Head of Akpabio’s legal team, Barr. Patrick Umoh should be reminded so.

“We have come across reports in the social media to the effect that INEC, Akwa Ibom State is denying the legal team of Sen. Godswill Akpabio access to election materials ordered to be inspected by the Election Petition Tribunal,” the statement reads.

It goes further, “Even though this claim is consistent with the sustained campaign of calumny against the Commission before, during and after the elections, this baseless allegation is clearly mischief taken too far. We find it distasteful and hard to believe that a legal practitioner can so cheaply and dishonorably lend himself for use in this unholy enterprise against his conscience and the truth.

“The truth is that a seven-man legal team of Senator Akpabio has been in the Commission and has actually commenced the process of inspecting the election materials. They were led into the Strong Room of the Commission where they sighted and confirmed that there are indeed materials and documents to be inspected.”

According to sources, “The Commission further explained that Akpabio’s legal team sat with INEC lawyers to work out and mutually agree on the modalities and schedule for the continuation of the inspection of the materials after the Easter holiday, from Tuesday to Thursday, between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm. It added that it was instructive to note that the petitioners had earlier obtained the CTCs of some of these documents, stressing that if they were availed the CTCs of the documents, why would they not be allowed access to inspect the same documents as alleged?”

On INEC’s statement, “What could they be doing in the Commission’s Strong Room, a restricted area where materials are kept if they were not on an inspection? How can someone who has been availed all legitimate support and was part of the agreement to continue the inspection after the holiday, turn around to complain that they were denied access to the materials?

“Is it possible, as is being rumoured in the social media, that they intended smuggling in and dumping on the Commission, extraneous and compromised materials that would jeopardize investigations and thwart the cause of justice and are now venting their frustration at being stymied by the vigilance of Commission staff?

“We observed in the report the sinister habit of dragging Mike Igini’s name into their dirty politics for the malicious purpose of blackmailing him. We need to state here that the REC has been out of the State on official duty and has not even interacted with the external solicitors of the Commission.

“He had however left a standing instruction that officers of the Commission must cooperate with the legal teams in the election petitions, especially with regard to obeying every order of the Election Petition Tribunal. This we have done faithfully…”

On the invasion of King Tom’s home, the Chairman of the Chiefs and elders, High Chief Harry Omubo said: “We were not happy when we got the news of the invasion of your palace by military men. We are standing against this kind of marginalization and intimidation.

“Your reign as a King is important to us, the South-South Chiefs and elders. And we have come to condemn this very act by the military in its entirety.”