Ekiti Bribery scandal; NPF takes over

Nigeria: The N250 million bribe scandals rocking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the recent Ekiti gubernatorial rerun election has taken another dimension with the Nigeria Police Force wading into the matter. This is coming just as the INEC headquarters declared that stiffer penalties await any of its staff found culpable in the bribery scandal.

Already, the Police Force has summoned all the principal characters in the scandal to its headquarters at Loius Edet House, Abuja.
It was gathered that the Commissioner of Police “Admin”, Felix Ogbuadu; summoned both the alleged  giver of the N250 million bribe, Hon. Ayorinde Yomi, former local government chairman; and the whistle blower in the scandal, an INEC staff, John Onaji, to the Force Headquarters for fresh investigations into the scandal.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP)  in charge of INEC Police Post, J.B. Awelewa, had on Monday submitted his report on the investigation to the FCT Police Command. In the report, the DCP described the allegation as a “hoax” and recommended that Onaji should be punished administratively for “embarrassing INEC.”
The report further said there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation.
But a new twist was added to the report on Tuesday when Ogbuadu summoned all the characters mentioned in the scandal to Force Headquarters, giving indications that the matter was yet to be settled.
According to THISDAY sources, when the principal characters in the allegation got to Force Headquarters yesterday, they were directed to the Office of the Deputy Inspector General of Police.
By 2 p.m yesterday, the principal characters in the matter were further sent to the Area 10, Garki Office of the Force Headquarters Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for further investigation.
A source told THISDAY that the suspects had been told by the police to look for persons that would take them on bail or they would be detained.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) had ordered a full scale investigation into the scandal in line with the directive of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Last Friday, three INEC National Commissioners, Victor Chukwuani, Ayodeji Soyebi and Philip Umeadi, alongside the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ekiti state, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, her Imo state counterpart and that of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Jigawa state were quizzed by the SSS for over five hours.
On Saturday, officials of the SSS quizzed the INEC Secretary, Alhaji Abdualahi Kaugama, over N24.6 million voted for police for the rerun election in Ekiti state.
The Presidential Panel on the Ekiti state Bribery Scandal comprising the SSS, representatives of the Service Chiefs and the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) are investigating allegations bordering on bribe given to the INEC officials
Also yesterday, INEC said due process must be followed in the Ekiti rerun bribe scandal and that stern sanctions would be visited on anyone found culpable.
The commission while reacting to Thisday editorial of Tuesday, May 19, 2009 entitled “The INEC Bribe Scandal” said that in its determination to salvage its image, INEC had not only demonstrated zero tolerance towards corruption, especially as it concerns the recent rerun elections it had conducted, but had also canvassed for stern sanctions to be visited on those who compromised the electoral process.
“We admit that allegations, such as were mendaciously peddled, have the propensity to dent the image of the Commission and to undermine the credibility of the electoral process. In fact, the Commission, determined to salvage its image, has not only demonstrated Zero tolerance toward corruption, especially as it concerns the recent re-run elections it has conducted. It has, therefore, canvassed for stern sanctions to be visited on those who compromise the electoral process”.
In a letter to ThisDay signed by the Acting Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Umenger, INEC said that it is out to ensure that justice is done, therefore caution must be applied and that due process must be followed in the whole process.
Umenger noted that since the details concerning the allegations were sketchy, the Commission had to proceed with maximum caution and circumspection.
“But like the ThisDay editorial poignantly observed, even at the time it went to town with its editorial, the details concerning the bribe allegedly offered our staffs were at best sketchy. Hence the Commission had to proceed with maximum caution and circumspection.
INEC in deference to due process restrained itself from issuing a statement or addressing the press until after a thorough investigation of the matter by the police. ThisDay will recall that the matter had been taken to be the Police by our staff themselves in the heat of their finger pointing”
Adding; “It does no one any good if we hastily hound our staff to the courts without instituting a thorough investigation into the matter. To do so now would amount to a travesty of justice”.

From Chuks Okocha and Senator Iroegbu, Thisday Abuja,