By Funmi Akinbolu On Aug 27, 2019.
Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio has been advised to focus on his new assignment as a minister and stop blackmailing members of the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Akwa Ibom State, with false and childish bribery allegations “when he could have actually been the one who tried to compromise the tribunal members and failed.”
The Elections Transparency Group, ETG, in a release on Tuesday, said it was worrisome that in his bid to arm-twist the Appeal Court President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, into disbanding the Tribunal or move its sittings from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital to Abuja, Senator Akpabio has now commissioned media propaganda against the Tribunal Chairman, Justice W. O. Akanbi.”
Recall that a week ago today, it was widely reported across the media space and platforms that Senator Akpabio had concluded plans to blackmail the Tribunal Chairman and other members with spurious allegations of financial inducements. It is rather shocking that a week after the media ran the story, Akpabio through his surrogate, Leo Ekpeyong has indeed gone ahead to blackmail the Chairman. This is very sad.
According to the statement issued by its Convener, Dr. Kazeem Adekunle, the ETG said going by his antecedents, Senator Akpabio must have resorted to blackmailing the Tribunal Chairman after it became obvious that his petition will not succeed given the fumbling s by his witnesses and the fact that the votes he had been bandying about were not products of accreditation.
The statement read; We in ETG have followed proceedings at some of the ongoing Election Tribunals in the country, particularly those of Akwa Ibom State and we are worried that as usual, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial candidate, Godswill Akpabio are now resorting to lying against the Tribunal members ostensibly to arm-twist them into perverting justice.
For instance, we read online yesterday, that a sum of $3 million had already been given to the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Akanbi and that the judge had ordered a brand new Toyota Highlander from the bribe money.
Even though it is not in our character to defend anyone, including judges, it is our belief that the report is bare- face blackmail aimed at intimidating the Justices. Anyone with such grievous allegation will rather petition the National Judicial Council (NJC) instead of engaging in media campaign.
By not informing the NJC, it shows that the allegation was only made to blackmail the judges and arm-twist them, which must not be allowed to succeed.
To even show that the story was made up just to blackmail the judges, the amount mentioned in the headline was $3 million while in the body of the story, the amount with which they claimed Justice Akanbi was bribed was $1.5 million.
Also, Chairman of the tribunal was first referred to as Justice W. O. Akanbi, later Akanbi J. and then Akanbi.
Most importantly, we are aware of the stories surrounding the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial election, especially the abduction of INEC officials and attempt to force them to declare false results in favour of Senator Akpabio.
We are not also unmindful of the fact that those who went to the extent of abducting INEC officials can go to any length to influence the tribunal and can also put the lives and career of the Tribunal members at risk, but the judges must stand firm and dispense justice without fear or favour.
We therefore call on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on Senator Akpabio to desist from his regime of blackmail and allow members of the election tribunals in Akwa Ibom State do their jobs solely in the interest of justice and fairness.
It is also important that Senator Akpabio is told to focus more on his job as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, rather than using the position as instrument of blackmail against judges who can only adjudicate on election cases based on the law and evidences made available to them.