Akwa Ibom State High Court 2 sitting in Ikot Ekpene, has found Professor Peter Ogban guilty of electoral fraud levelled against him by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akwa Ibom state during the 2019 Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
INEC had taken Ogban to court on two count charge of fraudulently tampering with the election results in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2019 General Election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
Ogban who is a Soil Scientist and lectures at the University of Calabar acted as the Collation/Returning Officer during the National Assembly elections and was standing trial for allegedly manipulating and falsifying the scores of election results in Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo local government councils in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In his ruling, the Presiding Judge, Justice Augustine Odokwo, after reading the judgment for about two hours, sentenced the accused to 36 months of correctional service and to pay a fine of N100,000 for count 2 and 1 respectively, after the accused had pleaded for leniency.
The accused, Prof Ogban had pleaded for mercy on the premise that he has dependents including a 90-year-old mother to take care of, adding that he was a respectable member of his community and a very valuable and sought after lecturer in the department of Soil Science, both in the University of Uyo and Calabar.
“If I lose my source of income, it means all of my dependents I have mentioned will suffer, especially the condition of my aged mother.
“This is an eye opener for anyone who participates in local, state or national activities to do so with dexterity and not take anything for granted to avoid an innocent person being embarrassed.
“I should be pardoned for the inability to do this which is why I am here today. I plead that you grant me 100 per cent mercy and allow me to go and continue with my responsibilities”.
Earlier, Counsel to the defendant, Anthony Ekpe, had prayed the court to pardon the accused saying the act for which Ogban was found guilty had no effect on the said elections.
He argued that as a Professor of Soil Physics and Conservation, the accused was highly sought after in the academic world and should not be deprived of his freedom.
“It was just a blip in the entire election process and cannot be said to have been to the detriment of the party said to have suffered. It could just as well have been an oversight or a mistake.
“We plead with my Lord not to deprive the accused of his liberty and seek particularly for another form of punishment. We plead that the court tamper justice with mercy,” he said.
But upon the judgment of the court, Ekpe said the accused will file for an appeal.
Also speaking, Counsel to INEC, Clement Onwenwunor applauded the court for the novel ruling on the electoral fraud case, saying, “the court judgment is commendable”.
He said the law for which the accused was found guilty makes provision for an option of fine or 36 months in imprisonment without an option of fine, but pleaded with the court to be merciful to the accused.