Nigerian Professor of soil physics jailed three years for electoral fraud

The Akwa Ibom State High Court 2 sitting in the Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, has sentenced one Professor Peter Ogban of the University of Calabar, Cross River State to three years imprisonment for electoral fraud he committed during the 2019 elections in the state.

Ogban, a professor of Soil Physics and Conservation, who acted as the Collation/Returning Officer during the National Assembly elections, was standing trial on two counts for manipulating and falsifying the scores of election results in Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo local government areas in favour of the All Progressives Congress.

In his ruling on Thursday, the trial judge, Justice Augustine Odokwo, said the court has proven beyond reasonable doubts that the accused was guilty of the charges and accordingly sentenced him to three years imprisonment and a fine of N100,000 for the two counts respectively, after the accused had pleaded for mercy.

The accused pleaded for mercy on the premise that he has dependents including a 90-year-old mother to cater for, adding that he was a respectable member of his community and a very valuable and sought after lecturer in the department of Soil Science at the University.

He said, “If I lose my source of income, it means all of my dependents I have mentioned will suffer, especially the condition of my aged mother.

“This is an eye opener for anyone who participated in local, state or national activities to do so with dexterity and not take anything for granted to avoid an innocent person been embarrassed.

“I should be pardoned for the inability to do this which is why I am here today. I plead that you grant me 100 per cent mercy and allow me to go and continue with my responsibilities.”

Earlier, counsel to the defendant, Anthony Ekpe, had prayed the court to pardon the accused, saying the act for which Ogban was found guilty had not affected the said elections.

He argued that as a Professor of Soil Physics and Conservation, the accused was highly sought after in the academic world and should not be deprived of his freedom.

“It was just a flip in the entire election process and cannot be said to have been to the detriment of the party said to have suffered. It could just as well have been an oversight or a mistake.

“We plead with my Lord not to deprive the accused of his liberty and seek particularly for another form of punishment. We plead that the court temper justice with mercy,” he stated.

But upon the judgment of the court, Ekpe said the accused will file for an appeal.

Also speaking, counsel for INEC, Clement Onwenwunor, applauded the court for the novel ruling on the electoral fraud case, describing “the court judgment as commendable”.

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