How I resisted pressure to announce false results — Abia Returning Officer
At the continued hearing of a petition filed by David Onuoha-Bourdex against Senator Mao Ohuabunwa and 13 others, the Returning Officer (RO) for Abia North Senatorial district in the March 28, 2015 election, Ihekweaba Chukwugoziem, Monday told the Abia State National Election Petition Tribunal that he never absconded or abandoned his duty post during the election.
Mr. Ihekweaba explained that rather than abdicating his duties, he stoutly refused to declare the result of the election based on the falsified data presented to him.
“We started to examine the results, local government by local government, and after we examined Arochukwu and Ohafia results and discovered huge anomalies, the Respondents refused and resisted the continuation of the examination of the remaining three local government areas.
“Pressure was mounted on me to sign and declare the results as presented with all the manipulations in them, and I refused, insisting that the right thing should be done by concluding the examination of the rest of the local government areas before the declaration,” he disclosed.
The RO stated that he quickly wrote a report and submitted to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) informing her about how he was being persuaded to announce a pre-arranged result which was not in tandem with the law, and did not go down well with him and his conscience.
When asked under cross-examination why he went to the Federal High Court to swear to an affidavit after submitting the report to the REC, he said he decided to go the extra mile to ensure the right thing was done based on the report he submitted to his employers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the large scale falsification, mutilations and inflation of votes on the result sheets skewed in favor of the PDP candidate Mao Ohuabunwa.
Mr. Ihekweaba, an Associate Professor of Computer Engineering at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, reiterated that when pressure was mounted on him by supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, he refused to budge, adding that at no point did INEC send another person to replace him as the RO.
Under further cross-examination by both the counsel of the defendant and INEC, the RO remarked that he was not in a place to know whether INEC had power to appoint another Returning Officer or not, stressing that he was appointed via a letter signed by the Head of Department of Electoral Operations of INEC, Mr. G. I. Okoli, which he tendered to the tribunal.
The RO added that it was in response to his report that the REC set up the committee to investigate the widespread irregularities regretting that while the committee of which he was a member set about the assignment, it could not finish its work because after crosschecking two out of the five local government areas that make up Abia North Senatorial District namely Arochukwu and Ohafia, “massive irregularities were noticed and at that point the Respondents refused and resisted the continuation of the examination of the remaining three local government areas”.
When the INEC counsel, Livy Uzukwu, (SAN) accused him of absconding, the RO declared: “I did not abscond, I refused to act against my conscience by announcing fictitious results in favour of the PDP candidate who did not win the election.
Pressure was brought on me to sign and declare the results as presented with all the manipulations in them and I refused insisting that the right thing be done by concluding the examination of the rest of the local government areas before declaration. The result I was being pressured to sign did not emanate from me as the duly appointed Returning Officer for the Senatorial election.”
While denying suggestions by the defense counsel that he published his report on a national daily and that he was working for the petitioners, Mr. Ihekweaba stated that he knew nothing about the publication. He added that he was not working for anyone and that he had nothing to lose by doing that which was needful, by swearing to the affidavit to ensure that the right things were done.
He asserted that he was answerable to his conscience and INEC that appointed him, pointing out that if he was doing what he did for money, that despite the several threats being made to him and his family, PDP and the Respondents were ready to pay him more than anyone could have.
Earlier, an expert witness, Adeola Layiwola, told the tribunal that analyses of the result sheets exposed a lot of mutilations, pointing out that certain figures were randomly inserted without cognizance of their relationship in the context.
The statistician added that a proper computation of the genuine votes tally showed that the petitioner, David Onuoha-Bourdex, scored the highest number of valid votes in the election.
An APGA polling agent caused a mirth when, in answer to a question by one of the defense counsel, he lamented that he never knew that lawyers could tell lies. He insisted that all the figures contained in the duplicate result sheet he handed over to his party's ward chairman was the true reflection of the outcome of voting at the polling unit.
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