A judge in Akwa Ibom State is to determine whether a disgraced university professor deserves to be granted post-conviction bail.
Peter Ogban, a professor of soil science at the University of Calabar, was sentenced to three years in prison in March, after the court found him guilty of fraudulent manipulation of election results, publishing and announcing of false results during a 2019 senatorial election in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria’s South-south region.
He was prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Mr Ogban, 65, was an ad-hoc official of INEC and the returning officer in the election which was contested by a former Minority Leader of the Nigerian Senate, Godswill Akpabio.
Justice Pius Idiong of the state High Court, Ikot Ekpene, fixed July 12 for ruling on Mr Ogban’s bail application after listening on Thursday to the argument from his lawyer, Kanu Agabi, (SAN) and the INEC lawyer, Clement Onwuenwunor.
Mr Agabi submitted a 16-page affidavit with three documents as exhibits to support the bail application on health grounds and pending appeal.
He stated that according to order 17 rule 13 of the Appeal Court, the court can grant bail to a convict relying on its discretion and the inherent powers vested on it.
But the INEC lawyer, Mr Onwuenwunor told the court that the professor, having been convicted, had lost his constitutional rights to bail.
Mr Ogban’s appeal against his conviction was yet to be heard at the Court of Appeal, Calabar, as at the time of filing this report.
The professor is believed to have worked for Mr Akpabio’s interest in the election, although the former senator disowned him a few days after the court judgement.
Mr Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom, was appointed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs after he lost the election.
Mr Ogban, before he was sentenced, pleaded for mercy. He told the judge he had learnt his lesson.
“When next I am given a responsibility, I will be extra careful. All that glitters is not gold. Everyone is a persona. The way they look is not the way they are. I will be very careful in dealing with people,” he had said before the court.
Conflict of interest?
Mr Ogban’s lawyer, Mr Agabi, was a lawyer in 2019 to Chris Ekpenyong, the man who defeated Mr Akpabio in the election.
Besides defending Mr Ekpenyong’s victory at that time, Mr Agabi had attacked Mr Akpabio’s petition at the tribunal as being founded on “illegal and unlawful allocation of votes,” apparently referring to Mr Ogban’s fraudulent allocation of fake votes to Mr Akpabio.
Two senior lawyers in Uyo who are familiar with the case told PREMIUM TIMES it was “unethical” for Mr Agabi to defend the jailed professor.
“He is setting a bad precedent for younger lawyers,” one of the lawyers said.
Mr Agabi did not respond to calls and a text message seeking his comment for the report.
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