By Ushang Ewa
Former Cross River Attorney General, Barrister Attah Ochinke has said that the exclusion of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from participating in the 2013 council elections held in the state was due to the fact that the party had ran out of time due to merger talks to field candidates for the elections.
Ochinke made this revelation while reacting to a post on Facebook by former House of Representatives candidate of the defunct All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), John Upan Odey where he pointed out that he was not surprised the House of Assembly led by Honorable John Lebo will move to declare Honorable Elucate Ekom’s seat vacant as it is a product of former Governor Liyel Imoke whose plans always have “factory defect,” and recalled that Imoke and Ochinke had stopped APC from contesting in the 2013 council elections.
But, Ochinke in his reply accused the APC of attempting to make the state go against established laws guiding the conduct of elections in the state.
“Let me set a little record straight on the non-participation of APC in the 2013 local government elections in Cross River state. Neither Governor Liyel Imoke nor myself (sic) opposed or stopped APC from participating in the elections.
“The issue APC (tabled) in 2013 was that the elections which were already fixed in accordance with the prescription of the Local Government Law and the CROSIEC Law, should be postponed in breach of these laws till a time when the newly registered APC will be ready to participate.
“In other words the elections should be conducted not when the law stipulates but when one of the political parties is ready. It is this position that I, as Attorney General, not Imoke, opposed.
“The court records on the ensuing litigation on this point are there. As chief law officer, it was important that I guide the institutions of government to follow the law rather than pander to the caprices of men or political parties,” Ochinke wrote.
He further explained that: “What had happened was that APC because of the merger ran out of time to submit candidates within the period prescribed by CROSIEC and wanted expansion of that time so they can do so.”
Odey had earlier wrote that: “I wasn’t much surprised when I heard of the plan of the Speaker of the Cross River House of Assemby to declare vacant the seat of Hon. Elucate who defected from the PDP to the APC because he and his Assembly are a creation of Liyel Imoke and we know everything created by Imoke comes with a factory defect.
“I remember in 2013 after the formation of the APC our party contested local government elections in other states but in Cross River, the strong man Liyel Imoke and his AG then, Attah Ochinke, decided the APC could not participate. History will not be kind to folks like (sic) this quite frankly.”
However, Obla denied Ochinke’s position and accused Mr. Imoke of attempting to frustrate the process as he did not want any form of opposition in the elections.
He wrote: “It is not correct that APC (sic) run out of time to participate in the local government council election. The party was registered on the 31 July 2013. It was a deliberate decision.
“The then chairman of Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission had confided in me that the government was not comfortable with APC and therefore the Party would not be allowed to participate in the election. So John Upan Odey is right.”
When asked by another question about why he did not take action, Obla responded that: “My disclosure of what the then Chairman of Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission told me was widely published in the mass media including CrossRiverWatch and Channel Television.”
Obla had told CrossRiverWatch in September 2013 that the then Chairman of the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission CROSIEC, Sir Patrick Otu had told him in a telephone call a month earlier that there was pressure on him from the State Government and the leadership of the ruling People’s Democratic Party PDP to exclude the APC from the forthcoming local council polls.
However, Otu advised the APC to write to CROSIEC which they did and even instituted a court case to stop CROSIEC from conducting the elections on September 21, 2013 but a day before the elections, the presiding judge, Justice Ofem Ikpi Ofem Kept mum on the interlocutory injunction sought by the APC to stop the election at his ruling.
The then counsel to APC, Okoi Obono-Obla at the end of ruling reminded the Court of the Motion for Interlocutory Injunction seeking for an order restraining CROSIEC from conducting the elections on the 21/9/2013 pending the hearing of the case filed by APC which was yet to be determined and that because of time the Court should issue an interim order and further applied that the Court should extract a commitment from the Attorney General, Mr. Attah Ochinke as the custodian of law and order and defender of public interest in Cross River State to advice CROSIEC to maintain the status quo and suspend the elections.
But, Justice Ofem said that since that day was his last day as vacation Judge he was ordering a transfer of the case file to the Chief Judge of the State to assign to another Judge. The Judge then advised parties to be law abiding.
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