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Election fraud case against Nigerian professor adjourned

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A State High Court in Uyo has adjourned the election fraud case against a Nigerian professor, Ignatius Uduk, to Wednesday for trial.

Mr Uduk, a professor of Human Kinetics in the Department of Physical and Health Education, University of Uyo, is facing a three-count charge which includes unlawful generation of election results during the 2019 general elections in Akwa Ibom State and lying under oath.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case is being prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The trial could not commence on Monday as earlier scheduled because INEC applied for the amendment of the charge.

Because of that, the INEC witness, who was already in the witness box, stepped out without uttering a word.

Besides, INEC lawyers failed to attach to the charge a written statement of their witness.

“Take a date, go and put your house in order,” the court, presided over by Justice A.E Archibong, told the prosecution team led by Kpoobari Sigalo.

The defence lawyer, Abasiodiong Ekpenyong, did not oppose the application for amendment. He, however, said the court should take notice that it appeared INEC was not prepared to prosecute the case.

“We came fully prepared, you can see our witness was in court, only that the written statement of the witness wasn’t in the file. We thought those things were intact, only for us to discover this morning that it wasn’t in the file,” Mr Sigalo told reporters outside the courtroom.

“We actually filed our charge before the court, but we looked at the charge and there was need for a minor amendment of the charge and in the process we discovered that the written statement of the witness was not there, and the court guided us to go back and put our house in order,” the lawyer added.

Mr Uduk was an ad-hoc official of INEC and the returning officer for the Essien Udim State Constituency election.

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In a hand-written report to INEC, Mr Uduk said he was “compelled” to declare election results not collated by him, but by undisclosed persons who handed them to him.

“However, in another deposition, this time in a typed written statement on oath, Prof Uduk, driven in a dark tinted vehicle to the Election Tribunal venue, surprisingly stood as a witness against the Commission, to defend the same election results he did not collate but were given to him by undisclosed persons,” INEC had said in a statement.

Mr Uduk, before now, had refused to appear before a panel set up by INEC to investigate the alleged election fraud. He even threatened, through his lawyer, to sue INEC if the election commission continued to “pester” him with an invite to appear before the panel.

Another professor, Peter Ogban, in the same university, was similarly arraigned for election fraud in November, for allegedly trying to help a former senator, Godswill Akpabio, win re-election.

Mr Akpabio, who is now the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, lost the election to the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Chris Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State.

This is the first time ever that INEC will be prosecuting two professors for fraud.

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