The trial of another Nigerian professor charged with election fraud could not continue on Thursday in a state High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, because of the judge’s absence.
Ignatius Uduk, a professor of Human Kinetics in the Department of Physical and Health Education, University of Uyo, is being prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on a three-count charge which includes unlawful generation of election results and lying under oath.
Mr Uduk was an ad-hoc official of INEC and the returning officer for the Essien Udim State Constituency election in 2019, in Akwa Ibom State.
The professor and his lawyers, the prosecution counsels, and other litigants, were in court for the day’s proceedings, when a court clerk announced that the court was not going to sit.
No reason was given for the judge’s absence.
A recent mass transfer of judges in the Akwa Ibom State judiciary may have probably affected the court’s sitting, as some judges alternate between their new court and the old one to dispense of cases that have reached advanced stages.
The case, which was last heard on January 19, 2021, was adjourned to April 13.
Mr Uduk was remanded in prison in December on the order of the judge, Archibong Archibong, after a warrant of arrest was issued on him for refusing to present himself for trial.
Another professor, Peter Ogban, was last week sentenced to three years imprisonment for “fraudulent manipulation of election results, publishing and announcing of false results” in two local government areas – Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo – during the Akwa Ibom North-West District 2019 election.
Mr Ogban, a professor of Soil Science at the University of Calabar, was a returning officer in the election.
This is the first time INEC is prosecuting professors for electoral fraud.