A State High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, has fixed April 28 for ruling on a preliminary objection filed by a Nigerian university professor Ignatius Uduk, accused of election fraud in the state.
Mr Uduk also filed a no case submission.
The professor of Human Kinetics in the Department of Physical and Health Education, University of Uyo, is being prosecuted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for alleged unlawful generation of election results during the 2019 general elections in Akwa Ibom State.
Mr Uduk through his counsel, Abasiodiong Ekpenyong, asked the court to uphold his argument as contained in the preliminary objection and dismiss the case.
The lawyer, Mr Ekpenyong, sought the court’s interpretation of a recently decided case of Joseph Wobike against the Federal Republic of Nigeria where Section 93 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Law of Lagos State was put to test.
He said his client is charged with offence as contained in Section 123 (4) of the Electoral Act, and added that those offences are not defined by the Electoral Act or any law in Nigeria.
According to him, in Wobike’s case the court held that where there’s no written definition of offence, one cannot infer the ingredients of offence, and argued that it is upon the law creating the offence to state what constitutes the offence.
Mr Ekpenyong told the court, “For there to have been a false result, it means that there are two results – one original and the other fake but this trial, there’s only one result.”
The prosecution counsel, Clement Onwuenwunor, in his counter argument said the accused was linked essentially to the offences charged through his contradictory report to INEC and Election Petition Tribunal.
According to Mr Onwuenwunor, the accused in his report to INEC said, he ran away from the Local Government Collation Centre because of violence and that he could not account for the results.
However, the accused proceeded to issue the results a few hours after and went further to “swear an affidavit at the Election Petition Tribunal that the results he declared, the returns he made were not under duress and that there was no violence”.
The prosecution counsel said, “With the three contradictory documents the accused issued – his report, the results he declared and third, the evidence he filed at the Election Petition Tribunal – it is our position that he needs to explain those contradictions by entering his defence.”
Mr Onwuenwunor told reporters outside the courtroom that he has five witnesses in the matter but the defence counsel cross-examined only three, leaving the evidence of two witnesses unchallenged.
He said, “We feel with the avalanche of documents we brought in, it will amount to failure of justice for the court to uphold, as urged by the defence, that the accused does not need to put in his defence, at least to explain contradictory documents he issued.”
He added that they were able to establish before the court that the returns the accused made contradicted his earlier report where he said there was violence and that he could not account for any results that came from Essien Udim.
He wondered how the accused thereafter appeared before the Election Petition Tribunal to affirm the results he earlier denounced.
Mr Onwuenwunor told Justice Bassey Nkanang that the basis for the objection by the defence counsel was to misdirect the court, and added that the defence counsel arguments was related essentially to trials for terrorism, kidnapping, rape and murder and does not cover electoral offences.
Justice Nkanang, after hearing both submissions, adjourned the matter to April 28 for ruling on the preliminary objection.
Mr Uduk was an ad-hoc official of INEC and the returning officer for the Essien Udim State Constituency election in 2019, in Akwa Ibom State.
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, Professor 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 when he commenced the prosecution of the professor.
Another professor, Peter Ogban, in the same university was jailed last year for election fraud.
Mr Ogban tried to help a former senator, Godswill Akpabio, win re-election.