A factional chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, Stephen Ntukekpo, filed a forged document at a Federal High Court, Abuja, to outwit a rival who is seeking the same office, according to documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, is backing Mr Ntukekpo’s faction of the APC in the battle to control the party structure in Akwa Ibom.
Austin Ekanem leads the other faction. The former national secretary of the APC, John Akpanudoedehe, is politically supporting him.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had on March 17, sacked Mr Ekanem and other party executives, and ordered him replaced with Mr Ntukekpo.
The suit was filed by Mr Ntukekpo.
The APC and its then national chairman, Mai Mala Buni and Mr Akpanudoedehe, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were the respondents in the suit.
Justice Taiwo’s court had accepted as exhibit, a “summary result sheet” of the October 16, 2021 APC State Congress, which showed Mr Ntukekpo as the elected chairman of the party in Akwa Ibom. The judge gave the ruling in favour of Mr Ntukekpo, based on the exhibit.
Mr Ekanem did not take part in the congress, the court said.
“The purported substitution of the plaintiffs as members of the Akwa Ibom State Executive Committee of the APC, with unelected persons chosen by the 1st to 3rd defendants, and, who did not participate at the state congress of the party held on October 16, 2021 is unlawful and illegal,” Mr Taiwo had said in the ruling.
It, however, turned out that the “summary result sheet” filed in court by Mr Ntukekpo was fake and the signatures forged, officials have said.
‘Ntukekpo forged my signature’
Sheriff Banki, who headed a seven-man committee that conducted the APC state congress in Akwa Ibom, raised an alarm in January that his signature was forged by Mr Ntukekpo in the court document.
Mr Banki alerted the APC of the development through a letter he sent to the then national chairman, Mr Buni, on January 11.
He also sent a similar letter to the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the State Security Service, and the chairman of INEC.
“As you may recall, you appointed me as the Chairman of the APC Congress Committee to Akwa Ibom State for the Ward, LGA, and State’s Congresses, and I acquitted myself creditably,” Mr Bank said to Mr Buni in the letter.
“I submitted the results and the reports accordingly, but to my utter dismay, my attention was drawn to a suit filed in the Federal High Court, Abuja, by one Stephen Leo Ntukekpo who swore to an affidavit and attached fake results sheets where my signature was forged and he declared himself the State Chairman-elect for Akwa Ibom State,” Mr Banki said in the letter.
The results sheet, which Mr Banki said was fake and his signature forged, contained names of other “winners” drawn entirely from Mr Ntukekpo’s faction.
Mr Banki said in the letter that Mr Ntukekpo’s action was beyond politics and that the APC should treat it as a “serious criminal offence”.
He also said that Mr Ntukekpo’s action could throw the APC into chaos in Akwa Ibom.
Mr Banki, in a live Facebook interview on January 25, reiterated the allegation of forgery against Mr Ntukekpo.
He said the state congress in Akwa Ibom was one of the best conducted by the APC, and that the exercise was commended by INEC and security agencies which monitored it.
Mr Ntukekpo did not participate in the congress, he said.
Documents obtained exclusively by PREMIUM TIMES at INEC headquarters in Uyo corroborated Mr Banki’s claims that Mr Ntukekpo forged his signature.
Ten persons contested for the office of the state chairman of the APC in Akwa Ibom, while 1,794 delegates voted in the congress.
Mr Ekanem had the largest number of votes cast, 1, 278, according to the INEC document, followed by Otu Toyo, with 190 votes.
Another candidate, Udeme Ekot, had 50 votes.
Mr Ntukekpo had six votes, even when he did not participate in the party congress.
INEC said in its report that the APC state congress, apart from being peaceful, was conducted according to the law.
What really happened?
The APC in Akwa Ibom was already divided between the Akpanudoedehe and Akpabio factions before the party state congress.
Mr Akpanudoedehe, a former senator, wants to be the APC candidate for the 2023 Akwa Ibom governorship election, an ambition that Mr Akpabio is kicking against.
While Mr Banki-led team was conducting the APC state congress in Uyo, the APC faction loyal to Mr Akpabio — and led by Mr Ntukekpo — was having a parallel exercise somewhere in the city.
INEC, in line with its mandate, monitored the congress conducted by Mr Banki and his team, thereby rendering the parallel exercise legally, a nullity.
Mr Akpabio had shown up at the venue of the congress conducted by Mr Banki and his team and, at his request, he was given a few minutes to address the gathering.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, Ita Enang; the Managing Director, Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Umana Umana; a former minister of petroleum, Don Etiebet, and a former managing director, Niger Delta Development Commission, Bassey Dan-Abia were among the APC chieftains who participated in the congress conducted by Mr Banki.
Mr Ekanem, sacked via a court order 10 days after he was sworn in, later got a reprieve from the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which ordered parties in the case to maintain the status quo.
The appeal was filed by Mr Akpanudoedehe.
The Court of Appeal adjourned the case to May 17 for hearing on the motion for a stay of execution of the Federal High Court ruling.
However, 72 hours after, the new National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu, hurriedly swore-in Mr Ntukekpo as the Akwa Ibom APC chairman, in defiance of the order of the Court of Appeal.
The APC, also in an attempt to scuttle the case at the Court of Appeal, asked its lawyer, Solomon Umoh, SAN, to withdraw from the case. But the lawyer told the party that he was representing Mr Akpanudoedehe in the case, and not the APC.
“We are of the firm view that having been sued eo nomine as a natural person at the trial court, he (Akpanudoedehe) can constitutionally exercise a right of appeal through any counsel of his choice against a judgement which he was a party,” Mr Umoh wrote in a response to a letter from the APC national legal adviser.
Mr Akpanudoedehe personally wrote a letter to the APC national chairman, advising the party to stop putting pressure on his legal team to withdraw from the case at the Court of Appeal.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the APC national spokesperson, Felix Morka, for the party’s reaction, he asked our reporter to send questions via a text message. He did not, however, respond to the text message sent to his phone line.
Meanwhile, the former petroleum minister, Mr Etiebet was at the APC national secretariat, a few days ago, to explain to the national chairman, Mr Adamu, the forgery allegation against Mr Ntukekpo and why he (Ntukekpo) cannot lead the party in Akwa Ibom.
The minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Akpabio was reportedly informed by a party official about Mr Etiebet’s presence at the secretariat, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. The minister rushed to the secretariat, and reportedly had an altercation with Mr Etiebet in the chairman’s office.
Mr Etiebet, having been distracted by the minister, was unable to make a presentation to Mr Adamu. He had to reschedule the appointment.
Immediately they stepped out of Mr Adamu’s office, Mr Akpabio addressed reporters, with Mr Etiebet standing beside him.
Mr Akpabio said Mr Adamu is “leading a law-abiding party”, for swearing-in Mr Ntukekpo.
Mr Etiebet refused to comment on the incident when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him on Saturday.
But he said Mr Akpabio “caused the party in Abuja” to swear-in Mr Ntukekpo when he (Ntukekpo) did not participate in the APC State congress, let alone elected as chairman.
He said the swearing in of Mr Ntukekpo is an “illegality” that is unacceptable to him and other APC leaders in Akwa Ibom.
Mr Akpabio did not respond to calls and text messages seeking his comment on the matter.
His spokesperson, Jackson Udom, declined to comment on the matter, saying it was not within his scope of work to respond to party issues.
Mr Ntukekpo could not be reached for comment, as calls to his known telephone line were not going through.
‘I’m alive, nobody can lie against me.’
Meanwhile, the secretary of the congress organising committee, Yakubu Sule’s signature, was also forged.
Mr Sule told PREMIUM TIMES he would present his facts in the court whenever he makes an appearance.
Mr Banki had told PREMIUM TIMES, Thursday, he would not allow Mr Ntukekpo to claim victory against Mr Ekanem, in an exercise he conducted.
“You can only lie against a dead person, you can’t lie against a living person. I’m alive and nobody can lie against me.
“The person that forged my signature will be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
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