By Vincent Ujumadu
Awka – TWENTY-Four days to the rerun of the Anambra Central senatorial election, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said that the commission has not been officially notified about the withdrawal of Senator Chris Ngige, the minister of labour and employment, who was the candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, in the zone in the March 28, 2015 national assembly elections.
The planned rerun was as a result of the nullification of the election of Mrs. Uche Ekwunife who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, following an appeal by the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh. In its ruling, the Court of Appeal ordered a rerun in the zone within 90 days.
However, following the appointment of Ngige as a member of the Federal Executive Council, he informed stakeholders of APC in Anambra State of his decision not to participate in the rerun because of his appointment as a minister, adding that his party would find a capable replacement as a candidate of the party.
Subsequently, Ms Sharon Ikeazor, a former women leader of APC was chosen as the candidate at the party’s primary held in Awka last month.
Officials of APC said the party had also written INEC informing it of the withdrawal of Senator Ngige and wondered why its new candidate should not participate in the rerun.
But at a meeting with leaders of all the political parties in Anambra State held at its state headquarters in Awka, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Dr. Lawrence Azubuike said it was not to the knowledge of the commission that Ngige has withdrawn from the race.
He said: “I am not aware that the APC candidate in the March 28, 2015 election has withdrawn from the race.
As I speak to you, I have not been informed that anybody has withdrawn. If a person who is supposed to participate in the rerun decides not to do so, it is his choice.
“This is a rerun election and the condition is as it was as at March 28, 2015, which is that only those cleared then to participate in the national assembly election, will participate in the March 5, 2016 rerun.”
According to the REC, there were 14 candidates that participated in last year’s election for the Anambra Central senatorial zone, adding that with the disqualification of the PDP and its candidate, the other 13 candidates are expected to participate in the March 5, 2016 rerun.
Azubuike explained that both the card reader and the permanent voter card will still be used during the rerun, adding that INEC has worked out the distribution of PVCs that were yet to be collected by their owners.