A former political adviser to Akwa Ibom State Government, Hon Udo Ekpenyong has said that the election of Chief Godswill Akpabio as the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West was a reward for his sterling performance while he served as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
This is as he dispelled the insinuation that votes recorded during the Senatorial election were more than the accredited voters. He maintained that this was due to the non-workability of the card reader technology which prompted the presiding officers to resort to manual accreditation so that eligible voters would not be disenfranchised.
This was corroborated by the electoral officer for Ukanafun, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwakwegwu while testifying on Monday as a witness for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who said the card reader had malfunctioned in the area prompting the resort to manual accreditation.
Hon Ekpenyong from Ukanafun made the assertion when he testified as a witness of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Akwa Ibom State National and State Houses of Assembly Tribunal sitting at the Customary Court, Dutse Alhaji.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Inibehe Okorie had approached the tribunal to challenge the election of Chief Akpabio on the grounds that elections were not held across the Senatorial District. He also harped on a clerical error to claim that Chief Akpabio was not the PDP candidate for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
But taking the witness box during cross examination by Counsel to the APC candidate, Chief Assam Assam, SAN, Hon Ekpenyong insisted that the victory of Chief Akpabio was guaranteed because he had performed excellently well as a Governor, a feat which was appreciated by the people of the Senatorial District.
Responding to a question by the APC Counsel on whether he had known Chief Akpabio before the election, the former Political Adviser said: “yes he is a grassroots man. As a Governor he did a lot for the people. He provided free medical treatment for children, the aged and pregnant women. He empowered the youths and assisted people to become ministers and ambassadors,” he said.
Hon Ekpenyong also dispelled the insinuations that the number of votes announced for Chief Akpabio did not tally with the number of voters indicated by INEC documents to have accredited to participate in the election saying that in his unit and many others across his Local Government Area, Ukanafun, the card reader technology had packed up prompting the INEC officials to resort to manual accreditation which was not captured by the document the APC Lawyer had relied upon.
Narrating his ordeal, he said: “I was on the queue on the election day waiting for accreditation. But before it got to my turn, the card reader had stopped working. I was told by the presiding officer that the battery had gone down. He changed the battery but the replacement was still bad and so I and many others who had queued behind me were referred to the next polling assistant who checked our names and accredited us accordingly to vote,” he said.
The information was also confirmed by the Electoral Officer of Ukanafun, Mr. Chukwuemeka Emmanuel Nwakwegwu under cross examination on Monday as he submitted that the card reader did not work in many units in the Local Government Area which led to manual accreditation and incidence form being used in such instances.
Concluding his witness testimony Hon Ekpenyong maintained that there was no way the APC candidate could have put up a good showing in the election against Chief Akpabio as the former Governor was clearly the choice of the people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.