The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has dragged two officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the Federal High Court, Abuja on a five count charge of electoral malpractices in the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections held in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo state.

In a press statement from the Chamber of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice by Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, Special Adviser to the AGF on Media and Publicity, and made available to newsmen on Monday in Abuja, the Federal Government slammed the charges against the defendants pursuant to Sections 104 and 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

Isah revealed the names of the culprits as Sulaiman Ikhuoriah, male, 36 years old of No.13 Aisosa Street, Off Okhoro Road, Benin City who served as Collation Officer for Ward 6 in Saint Maria Gorreti Secondary School, and Olugbenga Omotiloye, male, 50 years old of Plot 1, Longe Street, Okoh Central, Benin City, Edo State were accused to have falsified results in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate against the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate.

He disclosed that according to the charges filed by Magaji Labaran, a Principal State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecution of the Federal Ministry of Justice, on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, they committed the offence in their capacity as electoral officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission on and around the 23rd day of February, 2019 during the Presidential and National Assembly polls in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of the state which is within the jurisdiction of the honourable court.

They were alleged to have conspired among themselves and with others now at large and upon receipt of an offer to procure the return of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the House of Representatives elections for Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal Constituency in Edo State thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 123 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

Ikhuoriah was also alleged to without lawful excuse acted in breach of his official duty by placing a call to Honourable Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma and requested him through a telephone conversation for gratification for the purpose of delivering his ward to his party, the PDP during the elections. This he did erroneously thinking he was discussing with the PDP chairman, not knowing he was talking to Hon. Agbonyinma of APC.  By doing this, he has committed an offence punishable under Section 124 (b) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

The Collation Officer is also accused to have received the sum of a hundred thousand naira as bribe for delivering the ward for his supposed paymaster, the PDP candidate; which is an offence punishable under Section 124 (b) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

On his part, and as count four, the Electoral Officer, Olugbenga Omotiloye while serving in his capacity as INEC electoral officer on the 2nd day of March, 2019 at Bishop Kelly, beside St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Airport Road, Benin City held a meeting with Honourable Ise-Edehen and collected the sum of one hundred thousand naira as gratification.

The sum collected is said to be in appreciation of his effort in ensuring that PDP won the election during the February 23rd National Assembly polls for Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area.

Isah equally detailed that count five, Omotiloye on the 25th February, 2019 was directed by Senator Matthew Urhoghide not to take the Senatorial election’s result to Eghosa Grammer School which he complied in clear breach of his lawful duty thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 123 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

To quote Count Three on the charge sheet, “That you Sulaiman Ikhuoriah, male, 36 years old, of No. 13 Aisosa Street, off Okhoro Road, Benin City, Edo State, on 26th February, 2019 at Mr. Biggs, opposite the NNPC Mega Filling Station, Sapele Road Benin City, received the sum of N100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira) only as bribe for delivering your Ward, thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 124 (b) of Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended).”

While Count Five details, “That you, Olugbenga Omotilayo, male, 50 years old, of Plot 1, Longe Street, Oko Central, Benin City, Edo State, on the 25th February, 2019 was directed by Senator Matthew Urhoghide not to take the Senatorial election’s result to Eghosa Grammer School which you complied in clear breach of your lawful duty, you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 123 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended).

A case summary deposed to by Magaji Labaran, stated thus; “My Lord, the summary of this case is electoral malpractices, perpetrated by the defendants who were the INEC Collation Officer and INEC Electoral Officer (E.O) respectively during the 23rd February, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Ikpoba-Okha LGA, Edo State. The defendants have acted in breach of their official duties by been involved in electoral malpractices including bribery and conspiracy.

“The defendants were invited for interview on the 27th day of February, 2019 and 5th day of March, 2019 following a petition by the member representing Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, E.J. Agbonayinma (Hon.), where his Techno Ponvair (Model LA7) with GSM No. 0803-428-5260 was exploited. Thus, some incriminating text messages between him and one Matthew Urhoghide (Senator), with GSM No. 0803-3385-5557, Adaeze Onubagu with GSM No. 0703-528-5622 were found on the device.

“The suspects made voluntary statements under caution, and admitted collecting the sum of N100, 000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira) only from Ise-Idehen (Hon.), as appreciation. My Lord, during the trial, the prosecution shall lead evidence to prove the guilt of the defendant based on credible and undisputed facts.”