By Bassey Anthony, Uyo

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has hailed the three-year jail term the Akwa Ibom State High Court 2 passed on Professor Peter Ogban for electoral malpractice.

The court, which sat at Ikot Ekpene, yesterday sentenced Prof. Ogban to three-year imprisonment after he was found guilty of electoral fraud.

The commission had taken Ogban to court on a two-count charge of fraudulently tampering with the election results in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2019 general election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.

Ogban, who was the Collation/Returning Officer during the National Assembly poll, was prosecuted for falsifying the scores of the election results in Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo local government areas in favour of the APC.

The presiding judge, Justice Augustine Odokwo, sentenced the accused to 36 months of correctional service and told him to pay N100,000 as fine for counts two and one, after the accused had pleaded for leniency.

Ogban had pleaded for mercy on the premise that he has dependents, including a 90-year-old mother to take care of, adding that he was a respectable member of his community.

The academic said he was a valuable lecturer in the departments of Soil Science at the universities of Uyo (UNIUYO) and Calabar (UNICAL).

He said: “If I lose my source of income, it means all of the dependents I have mentioned will suffer, especially the condition of my aged mother.

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“This is an eye opener for anyone who participates in local, state or national activities to do so with carefulness …to avoid an innocent person being embarrassed.

“I should be pardoned for the inability to do this. This is why I am here today. I plead that you grant me 100 per cent mercy and allow me to go and continue with my responsibilities.”

The defendant’s lawyer, Anthony Ekpe, had prayed the court to pardon the accused, saying the act for which Ogban was found guilty had no effect on the election.

Also, counsel to INEC, Clement Onwenwunor, applauded the court for its verdict.

Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner (RECMike Igin said the judgment was the beginning of a new era in the country’s democracy.

“Truly, what happened today (yesterday) in court was a watershed in the history of the commission’s effort to deal with the issues that have to do with electoral offences in our country,” he said.

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