The Akwa Ibom state governorship candidate of the the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the March 9 election, Nsima Ekere, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of frustrating efforts of his legal team to inspect election materials as ordered by the tribunal.
Chief Victor Iyanam, lead counsel to Ekere, disclosed this at a news conference in Uyo on Tuesday, adding INEC is playing the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) script by deliberately delaying the inspection of election materials with a view to killing time.
He said the tribunal order issued on April 15 mandating INEC to allow APC legal team to carry out the inspection has not been obeyed by INEC.
According to him, INEC has continued to give the party flimsy excuses to delay the inspection and frustrate the party from achieving its objectives.
Iyanam said INEC as an umpire should not be seen to play the script of PDP to cause unnecessary delay since the tribunal has a time frame to conclude its assignment.
“We are, however, distressed by the delay, refusal and unwholesome excuses given by your office for non-compliance.
“Some of the excuses include non-availability of the materials as a result of transport challenges in bringing materials from Local Government Areas.
“Inadequate staff to carry out those duties and the fact that the INEC staff are busy with Sen. Godswill Akpabio’s inspection.
“The excuses have variously continued to be untenable in the light of the short period of time to prove our case at the Election Petition Tribunal,” Iyanam said.
The lead counsel urged INEC to expedite action to enable the APC to pursue and fulfil the order of the tribunal without any further delay.
Iyanam confirmed the readiness of Ekere’s legal team to press for contempt against INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state should there be further delay.
“INEC supposed to be unbiased. We wonder why INEC is playing ‘hide and seek’, giving flimsy excuses to deny us access to inspect materials,” he said.
He said that the chances of Ekere winning at the tribunal are very bright, stressing that the APC has solid evidence to prove its case.
Iyanam added that the inspection of election materials would concretise evidence on the ground.
However, the Public Affairs Officer of INEC in the state, Don Etukudoh, said the allegation is baseless.
“I will not have dignified such baseless and unfounded allegations with a reply but for the purpose of setting the record straight. Between last week Thursday and today, they had met with the INEC legal team only once and since then, there has been no communication again.
“They have not come back until today, so the allegations are baseless.
“Inspection is not an easy exercise; it is something that has to be sorted out. We have a schedule for the governorship, including even the National and State House of Assembly elections,” he said.