From Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has taken a new dimension with the party petitioning the State Police Command to investigate and prosecute the state Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem, in court for alleged forgery.
The social media has been awash with the news of alleged arrest of Dr. Sinikiem, following a petition by the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Anthony Aziegbemi, to the Police Command, wherein he accused the Commissioner of forging primary election results, which a faction of the party tendered in filing cases at the Federal High Courts in Abuja and Edo State.
In the petition dated 20th July, 2022, and addressed to the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Aziegbemi said: “I write this petition in my capacity as the State Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (thereinafter referred to as the PDP) against Dr. Johnson Alaibo Sinikiem, the resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Edo State.
“In preparation towards the conduct of the 2023 general elections, political parties are mandated under the Electoral Act to conduct congresses and primaries. It was in consonance with the Electoral Act that the National Working Committee of the PDP set up various panels to conduct the delegates’ congresses and the actual primaries for the selection of candidates nationwide.
“In furtherance of the above assignment, my office formally wrote to Dr. Sinikiem with my signature, intimating him of the respective dates, time and locations for the conduct of the delegates and primary elections across the State. Dr. Sinikiem in ignoring my correspondences and contrary to the processes set down by the National Working Committee (NWC)} of the PDP, purportedly monitored some primaries.
“Upon the conclusion of the Congress/primary election(s) exercise and after the respective panels set up by the NWC of our party had forwarded the results thereof to our national Chairman in Abuja, Dr. Sinikiem decided to appoint himself as the returning officer in respect of the primaries he conducted and monitored at unauthorized venues and accordingly forged the PDP primary election results in favour of aspirants who lost In the respective Constituencies and Senatorial Districts.
“The forged primary election results of the PDP are what enabled the aforesaid aspirants to file two separate actions in the Abuja and Benin Divisions of the Federal High Court. And this is what is currently fueling a new crisis within our state chapter of the PDP.”
Aziegbemi further stated that it is on the basis of the foregoing that “one cannot but submit that Dr. Sinikiem’s conduct of preparing, signing, stamping and executing primary election results of the PDP, without lawful authority or excuse is contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Code on forgery. We shall furnish the Command with credible evidence during investigation to buttress the allegations in this petition.
“In the interest of justice, adherence to the rule of law and to avoid the breach of public peace, I pray that the allegations in this petition be thoroughly investigated, and the suspect charged to court, if found culpable”.
Meanwhile, the Edo State Police Command has debunked the news of the arrest of the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, describing it as fake news.
The Command in a stament yesterday said “The attention of the Edo State Police Command has been drawn to an online report that the Edo State INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner was arrested yesterday 28th July, 2022 by operatives of the command.
“The command wishes to state that the news is fake and mischievous, and it was orchestrated to mislead the public and strain the seamless inter-agency synergy between the Nigeria Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission in the State, ostensibly, for incomprehensible goals.
“The fact of the matter is that a petition which was dated 20th July, 2022 was received from Dr Anthony Aziegbemi, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Edo State Chapter. The petition contained certain components that required informed and expert opinion which the Independent National Electoral Commission was best suited to provide towards aiding the Force in arriving at a credible investigative outcome”.
The statement signed by the deputy spokesperson of the Command, ASP Jennifer Iwegbu, added that “In furtherance to this and in appreciation of the inter-agency collaborative relationship between the Police and INEC in the Command, the Edo State INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner was invited, not as a suspect as being falsely projected in the media, but as an expert source to meet with the police leadership in the Command towards aiding us in addressing the technical issues in the investigative process. It must be clarified further that such administrative interactions between the leaderships of the Nigeria Police and INEC in Edo State is routine and not new.
“Following the meeting, the Edo State Residential Electoral Commissioner offered informed opinions which are proving to be invaluable to the on-going police actions on the referenced petition and immediately after the meeting, the INEC REC left the Command Headquarters. Contrary to the mischievous information being peddled on the social media by ill-intentioned individuals, the INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner was not invited to the Command Headquarters as a suspect, neither was he treated as one nor detained by the Command.
“While the freedom of information rights of the citizens and the mandates of journalists to inform the public remain acknowledged and respected, the Command wishes to advise, once again, that citizens and journalists should be circumspect and should always strive to verify sensitive information from authorized sources in the Command before publishing in overriding national security interest and to avoid being witting or unwitting harbingers of fake news which could threaten internal security order”.