Gentlemen of the Press, we have invited you again today to expose a dangerous design by the ever scheming All Progressives Congress (APC) to perpetuate itself in power by annexing and manipulating the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Of particular concern is the brazen imposition of a card-carrying member and prominent leader of the APC in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Etekamba Umoren, as the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Akwa Ibom State despite the loud and widespread outcry and rejection by Nigerians, and particularly our Party, the PDP and the people of Akwa Ibom State.
Etekamba Umoren is a known APC leader, who has been at the forefront of APC campaigns and unrelenting projection of APC’s interests in previous elections.
The PDP therefore in clear and unequivocal terms rejects the imposition of Etekamba Umoren as INEC REC for Akwa Ibom State being conceived in iniquity and in flagrant violation of the express provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act, 2022 and the universal demand of impartiality and non-partisanship of an electoral body and its officials.
It is imperative to state that Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2022 is clear and unambiguous in barring partisan persons like APC’s Etekamba Umoren from holding any position whatsoever in INEC.
For clarity and emphasis, Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2022 states that:
“No person holding an elective office to which this Act relates or a registered member of a political party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out the duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, presiding officer or a poll clerk.”
Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2022 is clearly a major provision that confers, affirms and protects INEC’s statutory independence, guarantees its impartiality and non-partisanship in the electoral process.
The violation of this key provision as in the case of Etekamba Umoren is a grievous assault on INEC’s credibility as an institution of democracy and the sanctity of the electoral process.
Our Party is aware of the mission allegedly handed to Etekamba Umoren by the APC leadership to use the office of the REC to compromise sensitive processes, materials and systems including voter registration, collection of Voter Cards, doctoring of Voter Register, delineation of electoral constituencies and coercion of INEC staff, all to lay the foundation for APC to manipulate the process leading to future elections in Akwa Ibom State.
Etekamba Umoren’s imposition as a REC is therefore a provocative and vexatious defilement of the independence, integrity and credibility of our electoral system which cannot be allowed to stand. This imposition has started generating serious agitation which is a recipe for crisis and possible breakdown of Law and Order in Akwa Ibom State if not immediately addressed.
It is instructive to alert that the import of the violation of Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2022 is to the effect that any election conducted or superintended by Etekamba Umoren will be subject to illegitimacy on the ground that the electoral body is constituted contrary to and in violation of the Electoral Act, 2022.
It is clear that the people of Akwa Ibom State, being very knowledgeable with respect to the position of the law will never allow such obnoxious imposition aimed to frustrate their Will at elections.
Moreover, the underlying substance, essence and significance of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is for appointments into Federal Agencies, especially sensitive agencies like INEC to be made in such a manner to “promote national unity and also to command national loyalty”.
The provocative imposition of a card-carrying member and known leader of the APC as the INEC REC for Akwa Ibom State which has resulted in tension in the State is at variance and in desecration of the express provision, intent and purpose of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which is to promote national unity and loyalty in all the component parts of Nigeria.
Furthermore, it is in the public domain that Etekamba Umoren has been reportedly accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of allegedly conniving to loot billions of Naira belonging to Akwa Ibom State while he was in the service of the State.
Etekamba Umoren having been thus accused and being a card-carrying member and leader of the APC, runs short of the necessary criteria required to occupy the position of a REC. A REC should be known to be a non-partisan individual of high integrity and whose conduct and appreance should exude confidence in the electorate and enhance the legitimacy of any election supervised by him.
Etekamba Umoren should therefore steer clear of INEC office in Akwa Ibom State. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should immediately commence the process of appointing a neutral Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State so as to avert crisis and illegitimacy in future elections in the State.
Thank you for listening.
Hon. Debo Ologunagba
National Publicity Secretary