Tribunal: IGP, INEC should probe allegations of BVAS report forgery – Okorie

Hon. Linus Abaa Okorie is a former two-term member of the House of Representatives and the Labour Party senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South in the 2023 elections. In this interview with PAUL OKAH, he urges the acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), AIG Kayode Egbetokun, and the independent National electoral Commission (INEC) to investigate the allegations of BVAS report forgery, among others.

How did you become the LP candidate?

Starting from the beginning was to get the ticket. First was the PDP. We had the primary and I won out rightly. However, for internal political reasons, PDP wasn’t prepared to give me the results. So, I withdrew my case from court and that’s when I sought the ticket of the Labour Party. That was at the point they were about conducting a replacement primary, because those who had their ticket had apparently withdrawn and they were looking for viable candidates. I was approached previously and looking at the scenarios and the situation, I decided to contest that primary which I won.

Again, somebody who lost the ticket went to the Federal High Court in Abakaliki. For whatever reason, the judge said he was the candidate. However, I approached the Court of Appeal that said no, that the judgement of the Federal High Court had no basis and confirmed me as the candidate. The person still went to the Supreme Court. On February 2nd, just about two weeks before the election, the Supreme Court affirmed my candidature.

What’s your take about the election?

Of course, clearly the election was one very important event. Very important because this is the first election I have run that I didn’t give any money to any agent. I didn’t release one kobo on the day of the election, but the people overwhelmingly voted for me. It was so obvious. In fact, by 8:00pm on that day, people were already celebrating. Lo and behold, before the day broke, when we got into Sunday, stories started coming out that certain INEC officers were being pressured. And finally from Afikpo South, it became clear that some untoward things had happened. Lo and behold, before Sunday was over, Dave Umahi of the APC was declared the winner.

What is the situation now?

The Electoral Act provides that even though that return has been made, that INEC has a seven-day window to review an election if it is considered that a wrongful return has been done. Of course, we went to court. We decided that we will be lawful and obedient to the law all through these processes. Having approached the tribunal, they were required to respond. INEC is the 1st respondent, Dave Umahi 2nd respondent and APC 3rd respondent. I am the 1st petitioner, Labour Party is 2nd petitioner.

In my petition, I mentioned documents that I will rely on in proving my case, including the different result sheets, BVAS report and others. So, we had to apply to INEC for the certified true copies (CTCs) of these documents. Abakaliki gave us the CTC of the physical result sheets and said there was a new policy that anyone that is electronic can only be gotten from Abuja. So, we came to Abuja and applied for the BVAS report and other ones that were electronic. We obtained it on the 28 of March. We went and compared it with the polling unit results, which we had gotten the CTC and they tallied 100 per cent. Lo and behold, later in April, we were served with the reply of the second respondent, Dave Umahi, the former governor, who was now declared senator-elect. There, he was challenging 88 polling units that had been declared in my favour. With that, if allowed to stand or if found to be true, they will further reduce my votes to about 7,500 votes and reduce his own lead by about 1,500 votes. That will further reduce the margin of lead. That was the idea to see if he can achieve the number of PVCs that were not collected where there was no election to show there was no need coming to do a supplementary election in those places as the law provided. So, he said he was basing his claim or argument on the BVAS report issued to him by INEC.

So, we got curious. How would INEC give us a BVAS report that we have compared on all forms to be the same with their own result that had already been declared and used in declaring him winner? How would they now give another BVAS report that now showed that 88 polling units, where my votes were higher than his own, where I won, were now over-voting? We had to go through them one after the other and found out that one of them was different from what INEC had given to us. The one who signed the BVAS report for Umahi was one Nnenna Essien, an assistant director, data management in the ICT Department of INEC headquarters, whom we found out is from Afikpo, but married to someone from either Akwa Ibom or Cross River.

In this concern, we applied again to INEC to find out what was wrong. In the meantime, our lawyer took the one that we were given and the one that Dave used in replying our petition, attached both of them to INEC for confirmation of which one that was authentic, because the two BVAS reports came from the same polling units, from the same election that was done the same day. Before that one came out, we had applied again for the same BVAS report, which was signed by the same woman that signed the one Dave was given, who signed the LP House of Reps candidate’s own and the second one we were given. The letter came from INEC to confirm that the one we were given is the authentic one. We now found a case of forgery on our hands.

What is the way forward?

As it is now, they have presented a forged document. What I am saying is that we are not discussing the case that is in court. We are discussing the manipulation of INEC documents by a suspected cartel that is working with outside collaborators. Who knows how many more outside collaborators are working with them? Who knows how many tribunals are using fake and forged documents from this cartel within INEC?

So, I am not talking about what is happening at the tribunal, what I am talking about, which is clear now, is there is a cartel at INEC headquarters that specialises in churning out conflicting documents, conflicting CTCs of the same documents and giving them to opposing camps in the same cases. In this instance, we have caught them red handed. That letter was signed by the secretary of the Commission confirming that the particular one that was given to other parties as long as Ebonyi South was concerned was authentic, except for the one given to Umahi. Out of five, that one stands apart.

What is your charge to IGP?

It is in this line of thought that I told my lawyers that we can’t go into self-help, but for them to write a petition to the IGP. These are all allegations, though the INEC papers are speaking for themselves. Let the IGP conduct an unbiased, detailed and comprehensive investigation into the documents. Find out who did what and why? So, the IGP should find out how many more people in INEC are working against it. To what extent have they given these conflicting documents? Which other tribunal may be facing the same situation? Incidentally, nobody is above the law.

UNI Agric Markurdi
Blueprint Whatsapp