The police had arrested one Ejike Nwankwo, a staff of the INEC, with four smart cards readers (SCRs) a few weeks after the general election. The said Nwankwo was subsequently detained for four days before the police contacted the commission to enquire whether he was in lawful possession of the SCRs.
A press release by the commission signed by INEC Public Affairs Officer in the state, Mr Don Etukudo, and made available to our correspondent and said: “Before they contacted the commission, a picture of Mr. Nwankwo was taken with the SCRs on display and sent to the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the APC.
“As usual, the APC latched onto the incident and went to town with a story that Mr. Nwankwo was leading a team of technicians employed by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini ‘to help him valid (sic) doctored 2019 elections in Akwa Ibom State.’
“To lend the story some credibility, they claimed the SCRs were ‘recalibrated”’ and that Mr. Nwankwo who was actually arrested at about 3:00 pm was arrested at 2:00 am on a Sunday! This story was given the widest possible publicity in social and mainstream media.
“The commission promptly issued a statement to the effect that Mr. Nwankwo, a staff of the ICT Department of the commission was in lawful possession of the SCRs.
“The four SCRs had no data in them and were used in the training of ad-hoc staff during the elections. In any case, the commission explained that it was unreasonable to suggest that four SCRs out of the over 3,000 used during the elections could have been manipulated in any way, to affect the process or outcome of the elections or the matters at the tribunals.
“This statement was dismissed by the APC and their hirelings as an afterthought in subsequent commentaries. As in other instances, the SCR incident was a conclusive proof that Igini had committed an electoral heist ‘having supervised the conduct of the worst elections ever in the history of Akwa Ibom State.’
“Instead of focusing on their cases at the tribunal, it was another opportunity to impinge on the integrity of the REC and dismiss the elections as a fraud,” INEC lamented.
It, however, enthused that the police have, after over two months, concluded their investigations into the case and have issued a report which exonerated Mr. Ejike Nwankwo and vindicated the commission.
“We advise the APC in the state to avail itself of a copy of the police report. We are under no illusion that it will moderate their predilection to assail the reputation of the resident electoral commissioner.
No one should expect those without integrity to recognise or appreciate the virtue in someone else. It is reasonable, however, to hope that the report will remind them that the commission had since concluded the 2019 general elections and that whatever is left of the exercise is at the various tribunals.
However, when contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, Mr Odiko MacDon, said he was not aware of the report after investigation on the matter, which was handled by the criminal and investigations department (CID) was concluded.
But he explained that if INEC had said that their staff was cleared by the police, then he had no contradictory view on the matter.