The Social Democratic Party (SDP) supporters have protested an alleged move by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to disqualify Mrs Natasha Akpoti, the party’s candidate for Nov.16 Kogi governorship election.
The protesters who gathered at the entrance gate of INEC’s headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday alleged that the commission wanted to disqualify Natasha from contesting the election
While speaking with newsmen during the protest, Natasha expressed displeasure over INEC’s attitude, making it difficult to replace the party’s governorship running mate, Mr Muhammad Yakubu, whose age was less than 35 years as required by law.
She said that the SDP had written a letter to INEC on Monday being the deadline set for replacement of names of nominated candidates, to enable it to replace Yakubu with Khalid Adam but added that the request was turned down.
The SDP governorship candidate said that the party would not sit back and allow INEC to disenfranchise it, even when the law allows political parties to replace a nominated candidate.
“I am a Nigerian. We will not sit back and allow INEC to disenfranchise us and derail our democracy,” Natasha said.
Some of the inscriptions on placards carried by the protesters read: “It is Natasha or nobody, Natasha must contest, we no go gree, Say No to intimidation, Natasha is our choice, We are for peace” and Natasha is Kogi’s hope”.
The SDP protesters were also joined by some leaders of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) who vowed not to vacate the INEC headquarters until their issue was addressed.
YPP National Chairman, Mr Bishop Amakiri also speaking with newsmen at the venue, said that they would not allow INEC to unjustly disqualify any candidate for the Nov. 16 elections in Kogi and Bayelsa.
“It is the judiciary that will interpret the law and not INEC that will interpret the law for us.
“We are contesting this governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa by the special grace of God, and we will win,” he said.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Natasha and two other representatives were later allowed into the INEC office for discussion over the matter.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, reacting to the development said that the commission did not have any issue against any candidate or political party.
“All we are saying is that parties should do the right thing.”
“You cannot tell a political party that its nominated candidate has been rejected without valid reasons if at all a letter was indeed written to that effect,” he said.
Oyekanmi said the problem with some of the political parties was that they nominated people whose age was less than 35 years as prescribed by the law.
“The commission has not yet taken a decision on the disqualification or otherwise of political parties or their candidates.
“ The letter written to some of the parties was to notify them of the age of their nominated candidates and what the constitution specified.