By Austin Ogwuda
ASABAâ€”Deputy Governor of Delta State, Professor Amos Utuama (SAN), has advised that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be given powers to disqualify a candidate contesting election who did not meet up with the prescribed requirements as stipulated by law.
Reacting to the tribunal verdict in Asaba which dismissed Peter Okochaâ€™s petition, Utuama, also a legal luminary, said â€œordinarily, one should have thought that the reason for having the commission (INEC) is to screen all candidates who want to contest for one position or the other. â€œSo if the commission, after going through the papers, finds that someone has not satisfied the ingredients, ordinarily the commission should be able to say you are not qualified.
â€œBut with hinge sight, they said donâ€™t leave it to the commission, donâ€™t leave it as an administrative procedure, the person should still go to court. If anybody feels that someone has not been validly nominated, whoever is challenging it can go to court early.
â€œLet me put it in perspective, for example, in this very case, the petitioner was disqualified because he was said to be found to be fraudulent by an administrative tribunal whose report was accepted by the federal executive council and issued a white paper which was published in a gazette.
â€œHe tried to upset that white paper before the election, twice he failed. Now you contrast this with Atiku who was able to set aside the white paper that indicted him before the election and as a result, he was screened and cleared as candidate but this one he didnâ€™t even get to that one.
â€œAt the time his nomination papers got to INEC, the closing date was over, so ordinarily coming to the point, the Independent National Electoral Commission ought to be given the power to say no Mr. Man you are not qualified, then the person who is injured by that disqualification can go to court and contest it.
â€œThat would have been to me a preferable way. But the Supreme Court said
no, there is no administrative disqualification. Anybody who is seeking to run for an election and is not qualified, it is only the court that can disqualify him. So we came to the court to say that this man is not qualified for a number of reasons.
â€œOne, no valid nomination, two he was indicted. So on the whole, I think the jurisprudence is that led the court adjudicate on the right of the parties who are aggrieved by electoral disputes and other grievances.â€