INEC considers Akpabio’s rigging “pre-election matter”

Godswill Akpabio
Godswill Akpabio confessed to rigging the 2007 senatorial primary elections in his state.

Mr. Akpabio had admitted to have rigged the 2007 senatorial election on camera.

The Independent National Electoral Commission said on Monday that it considers the self-confessed manipulation of the 2007 senatorial election by Akwa Ibom state Governor, Godswill Akpabio, a pre-election matter it cannot respond to.

Mr. Akpabio admitted in a video published by PREMIUM TIMES that he replaced the name of the winner of his party’s senatorial election primaries with another name, who eventually won the election.

In the footage, shot during a live coverage of the controversial Good Governance Tour two weeks back, the governor said he used his “own hand” to replace the winner with the name of his preferred candidate, Aloysius Etok.

“The people of Ikono and Ini (Local Government Areas) from 1960 have never produced a Senator,” the governor narrated.
“I used my own hand to strike out the name of the person who has won before, and I said it is important for me to give that region a Senator in 2007, and I produced Senator Aloysius Etok for you; that’s where he comes from,” the governor said, before gesturing to Mr. Etok, who attended the session alongside his colleague in the Senate, Ita Enang, to “take a bow”.
The video has sparked outrage, many asking the governor be sanctioned.

Spokesperson for INEC, Emmanuel Umenger, said the electoral body will not act, as many Nigerians have clamoured since the video was published, because the event occurred during primaries.

“It is a pre-election matter which INEC has nothing to do business with. And so we have no comment on that,” Mr. Umenger said.

But under the Electoral Act, INEC’s monitoring powers over political parties allows the commission to observe primaries and as it deems fit, accept or reject the outcome.

Mr. Akpabio struggled on Sunday to explain away the indicting video, in which he had already backtracked on his comments after an aide drew his attention to its import.

In a statement by the Akwa Ibom Government, the governor blamed the media and “mischief makers” for the governor’s gaffe and said the governor was misunderstood.

“Chief Akpabio has never, and would never engage in the rigging of election at any level,” Information commissioner, Aniekan Umanah, said, assuring that

“Governor Akpabio is a true democrat who will always support and promote efforts geared towards deepening Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.”

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