Facts have emerged of how last week’s news from the Delta State Police Command that sensitive Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) documents were allegedly stolen by an official of the state chapter of the Labour Party (LP), as sources claim that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the police, and INEC orchestrated the scene to discredit the current electoral petition by LP against the PDP.
The State Police Command had on August 30th, 2015, raised the alarm through a widely circulated statement of arresting and detaining some officials of the Labour Party for stealing sensitive documents from INEC in relation to the state’s just-concluded governorship and House of Assembly elections.
The police said they arrested and interrogated the state chairman of the Labour Party, Tony Ezeagwu, and a man named Onodawerho Esiri as the prime suspect, and sent a police report from Asaba to the ongoing governorship election petition tribunal against the Labour Party.
The police also said the document theft was carried out last week.
But a certified true copy of the police report addressed to the commissioner of police, signed by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Hafiz M. Inuwa, and obtained by SaharaReporters is dated June 25th of this year.
The police report, with reference number CR3000/DTS/SD3/VOL/3/230, said that a prima facie case of forgery and falsification was established. It also noted that the police acted on a tip-off swooped on a popular hotel located in the metropolis of Asaba, the Delta State capital and found the suspects in possession of INEC original copies of results relating to the just concluded governorship election in the state.
"The recovered and identified result sheets are sensitive materials that should not be found outside the custody of INEC or officials of INEC and that the person that stole the result sheet is the person that stands to gain advantage at the Electoral Petition Tribunal if INEC could not produce the result sheets when the tribunal demands for it.
"Two staff of INEC staff connived with the agents of the Labour Party were interrogated, following the discovery of the exhibits, INEC did a stock taking of its strong room and discovered that a total of 117 results sheets for governorship election and 20 house of Assembly election are missing from their strong room,” the report stated.
Speaking to SaharaReporters under the condition of anonymity, an employee of Dema Hotels, located at Ezenei Avenue, Asaba, where prime suspect Mr. Esiri was said to have been arrested by the police, corroborated the document, and disclosed that the incident happened sometime in June this year.
The hotel source said that the hotel owner is a kinsman of Governor Okowa who was in on the plot. He also claimed Mr. Esiri was set up. “Barely a few minutes [after arriving, Mr. Esiri] locked up his room and went out,” the source said. "After [Mr. Esiri left], the manager of the Hotel immediately left and after few minutes he came back with a team of some policemen from the state police headquarters with a vehicle and sat in the hotel reception. Shortly, Mr. Onodawerho Esiri returned and was accosted by the police at the reception where he was asked what he was doing with INEC sensitive electoral materials in his room.
"Immediately one of the officers just rushed to the vehicle and brought a bag of 'Ghana Must Go' loaded with INEC materials, and Mr. Onodawerho Esiri was [arrested] and handcuffed at the reception by the police and taken straight to the police headquarters and was charged to court.”
The source claims that the move was made to discredit the LP petition against Governor Okowa, noting that Mr. Ezeagwu was brought into the case when there is no evidence that he was implicated. He also questioned why the incident, which he claims occurred in June, is suddenly being brought to light by the police within the last week.
The police said it has concluded plans to charge the suspects to court for conspiracy to steal, forgery, and receiving of stolen INEC property.
Reacting to the matter, Mr. Ezeagwu stated that the whole issue was a high-level political conspiracy to indict him in the stage managed crime and truncate his party's petition before the election tribunal.
"The police report on the matter accusing me [of] ‘aiding and abetting’ was all a plan by the ruling PDP in the state to frustrate petitions at the tribunal,” Mr. Ezeagwu said. “I just laughed when I saw a police report after my invitation, indicting me for aiding and abetting crime. It is very unfortunate that the police is allowing itself to be used for political blackmail. They say my offense is that I once provided a hotel accommodation for one Esiri who was arrested by the police for allegedly stealing INEC materials during last April elections in the state."
Mr. Ezeagwu said that the LP had never sent anybody to steal electoral materials, as the PDP was making the world believe, and said that the LP already has sufficient evidence to back the petition at the tribunal.
“This a ploy to drag our party into crime and see how it can help them at the tribunal, because they have a bad case, and they know it," he said.
A statement released by the state government last Friday had alleged that the State Police Command had uncovered plot by some officials of the Labour Party in the state to tender fake election results sheets at the tribunal.