Mike Igini, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Akwa Ibom State, has denied rigging the just concluded elections in favour of any candidate.
Describing such allegations as “patently untrue,” he said the commission under his watch did not assist “any politician to secure electoral victory.”
Speaking during this year’s World Press Day at the Press Centre in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, he said the elections were won and lost by the votes of the electorate of Akwa lbom State, adding that “these allegations are now before the tribunal.”
Igini, who also denied that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not grant access for the inspection of election materials, saying that it was a deliberate misinformation intended to “attract attention and seek for sympathy from some quarters.”
He said following the tribunal order for inspection, a schedule was worked out with the petitioners’ lawyer and inspection of materials has been ongoing save for public holidays.
He maintained that the commission had no sympathy or partiality to any political party but did its utmost to give equal opportunity and equal chance by creating a free and fair playing field for political competition.
On the allegation that INEC delivered PVCs to a political group, he explained that at no point did INEC in Akwa Ibom state “offer, provide or deliver PVCs to any political group for political advantage.
“As a matter of fact, when the PVCs of some voters were carted away by hoodlums at Okobo LGA, we made extra effort to ensure that they were reproduced and delivered to the rightful owners as individual voters not to any group.”
He also denied holding any secret meeting with individuals or political group since on the 5th of September 2017 when he assumed duty to provide asymmetrical advantages in the election. “It never happened,” he said, emphatically, noting that citizens “have an effectively enforced right to freedom of expression, particularly political expression, including criticism of the officials.”
He also said that the people should have access to alternative sources of information that are not monopolised by government or any other group.
According to him, “It is, therefore, the right and in the best interest and benefit of citizens to be properly informed not misled or misinformed because misinformation serves the purpose of truncating the ability of citizens to participate in their governance and be able to hold their elected leaders accountable.
“Misinformation will succeed even more where the press fosters rather than dissuade or expose intentional obfuscation of facts, as we continue to witness increasing cases of misinformation, particularly those that are election-related”, he stated.
Stating a case of misinformation, he said it was published that he had been redeployed to Bayelsa State, saying it was not true. He explained that INEC is not a military or police institution where a resident electoral commissioner is told to pack up in the middle of the night to a new place of assignment.
He urged the media to use freedom of expression effectively to guide and protect society, adding that as public protector or guardian angel for society’s sanity and survival, they should keep in check by monitoring the exercise of power by those in authority, elected or appointed, holding public offices in trust.
“The media must expose acts of misinformation and the motivations for such acts in order to protect and preserve the benefits that democracy and good governance offer,” he said.
ANIEFIOK UDONQUAK, Uyo