The police panel, which investigated the violence that characterised the December 10, 2016, legislative rerun polls in Rivers State, has intensified its efforts to recover the balance of the N350m bribe, which the panel alleged was given to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The committee alleged that the cash was given to about 23 officials of INEC by officials of the Rivers State Government in order to ensure that the election was rigged.
But while the police have tendered the N111.3m, reportedly recovered from some officials of the electoral umpire, the panel has been unable to trace the balance of N238.7m.
The panel, which presented its findings at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, last Tuesday, had indicted six dismissed police operatives for misconduct and misuse of arms during the poll, contrary to the provisions of Force Order 237.
They are Eyong Victor, Peter Ekpo, Oguni Goodluck, Orji Nwoke, Okpe Ezekiel and Tanko Akor.
The panel, headed by Damian Okoro, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, said in its report, “Out of N350m, N15m was given to each of the electoral officers and N5m was added by the government of Rivers to the EOs who were in charge.
“Consequently, the sum of N111.3m was recovered by the panel from the 23 electoral officers.”
It was learnt that initial efforts to recover the outstanding N238m had failed to yield the desired results as some of the indicted officials had refused to cooperate with the police to trace the alleged loot.
“The panel could not establish who got the balance of N248.7m bribe as the EOs (Electoral Officers) admitted to getting just N111.3m out of the N350m bribe,” a source told one of our correspondents on Saturday.
The source, however, refused to outline the steps being taken by the panel to recover the balance, vowing that the panel was sure of getting the money “soon” owing to the strategies to be taken to recover the bribe.
SUNDAY PUNCH also learnt that the police have released the indicted 23 electoral officials on administrative bail to INEC for appropriate sanctions in line with the civil service rules.
Sources informed Sunday PUNCH that the police expected INEC to mete out appropriate sanctions to the indicted officials after which the officials would be arraigned in court.
A senior official, however, said the arraignment of the EOs was not dependent on the electoral commission’s action, noting that the prosecution of the officials would be determined by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The source added, “After their interrogation and the money was recovered from them, the EOs were released to INEC to be dealt with in accordance with the civil service rules. Both the givers and takers are culpable, but it is only the electoral officials that would be prosecuted because the governor enjoys immunity from prosecution.
“INEC would be allowed to carry out its internal disciplinary exercise against the errant officials, but this would not stop or delay the arraignment of the suspects once the authorities have drawn up the charges against them.”
He stated that the suspects were not paraded before newsmen when the panel submitted its findings last week because they had yet to face INEC internal disciplinary committee.
“It is because of the need for INEC to implement its internal mechanism on the officers that the electoral officers were not paraded when the panel submitted its report last week, but their files are being studied and would be submitted to the AGF as soon as possible,” the source stated.
When asked the reasons for the delay in the arraignment of the suspects, the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, said there was no delay, adding that the panel report would be implemented.
“We are going to fully implement the report; Like the IG has stated, the report will be forwarded to the AGF and implemented. There is no delay, we are simply following the due process,” the police spokesman stated on Saturday.
The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had inaugurated the panel on December 22, 2016, following the violence that rocked the poll in which DSP Mohammed Alkali and his driver were beheaded and their heads thrown into a river.
We are awaiting our internal panel report — INEC
Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary to Chairman of INEC, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission was expecting the outcome of its internal panel of investigation and the police report on the Rivers rerun elections.
Oyekanmi stated that it was appropriate for the police team, which visited the commission at the beginning of its work, to oblige the agency with its findings to keep INEC abreast of further developments on the rerun probe.
He added that the affected personnel were not Abuja-based and might have been released in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
He said, “I don’t know when and how they (suspects) were released; you know they are not Abuja-based people. Probably, they were released in Port Harcourt. It is our local spokesperson there or the Resident Electoral Commissioner who would have the information.
“They (the police) are supposed to oblige us with their own report because they came to us at the beginning and we expect them to let us know what they have discovered which they have not done.
“If you came to INEC and you brought a letter that you needed some things, which were granted and when you now conclude your investigation, at least, you should let us know what you discovered. So they have not given us the report. We are waiting for them.”
Oyekanmi also denied the claim that the Legal Department of INEC had received the police report on the rerun elections.
He stressed that such a report would not be sent to a department in the commission but would emanate from the office of the Inspector-General of Police to the office of the chairman of the commission.
Oyekanmi said, “The Independent National Electoral Commission has not received such a report either at the Legal Department or anywhere.
“And in fact, there is no way a police report will go to a department. It will come from the Inspector-General of Police to the Chairman of the commission. I have cross-checked in all the necessary places and they say it is not true.”
However, a top official of the commission, who confided in one of our correspondents, on Saturday, said the police did not need the input of INEC to prosecute the personnel indicted by the panel.