…Accuses INEC of ambushing parties; seeks Yakubu’s resignation
By Michael Eboh & Ezra Ukanwa
Young Progressives Party, YPP, Monday, faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission’s decision to disqualify its candidates for the forthcoming Bayelsa State governorship election.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, National Chairman of the YPP, Comrade Bishop Amakiri, disclosed that the disqualification of the candidates by INEC has portrayed the electoral body as a biased umpire.
He said, “The greatest threat to our nascent democracy is not the incompetence of leaders foisted on us through the instrumentality of the heavily flawed electoral system but the perception of a partial umpire.
“In Nigeria, perception is everything and when the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission expected to be an impartial umpire is being called to question, then it is time to raise the red flag because democracy at this point is in grave danger.
“We are amazed at the insensitivity of INEC in deliberately disqualifying our candidates in the forthcoming Bayelsa gubernatorial election on account of the age of the deputy governorship candidate who in the first place never participated in the primary election that produced the Governorship candidate.
“While we agree that it is a joint ticket, it is, however, an error in judgement for INEC to visit the consequence of oversight on a governorship candidate who until the emergence of the deputy governorship candidate through appointment was adjudged by INEC to have satisfied all requirements to participate in the election.”
Amakiri further accused INEC of acting like it is laying ambush for political parties, stating that the YPP had attempted to substitute some of the candidates within the stipulated period allowed by the law, but was blocked by INEC.
He called on the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu to resign, accusing him of incompetence, abuse of public office and disregard for the country’s constitution.
He said, “As if the INEC was playing a script, our party was denied the right of substitution after the voluntary withdrawal of both candidates from the race before the expiration of the stipulated period upon the frivolous excuse that our candidates were not eligible in the first place to participate in the election in brazen contravention of section 31, subsection (1) of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended 2015, which expressly bar INEC from rejecting or disqualifying candidate(s) for any reason whatsoever.
“The role of INEC is not to lay ambush on political parties like a hunter but to ensure that candidates presented by political parties adhere to the eligibility criteria at the point of submission of candidates’ documents. In addition, INEC is also duty-bound to call the attention of political parties in areas where there are errors for onward rectification.
“Also, Section 31, subsection (5) of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended 2015 stipulates that ‘Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the Federal High Court, High Court of a State or FCT against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false’.
“This clearly shows that it is not in the place of INEC to interpret the law as the judiciary is the only statutory arm of government empowered by the constitution to determine the eligibility or otherwise of a candidate. Moreover, in areas where the law is vague or completely silent on a matter, it is not the duty of the INEC to begin to interpret the law rather it should approach the court as a corporate entity “any person” to seek proper interpretation.”
“There was more clarity in subsection (6) where it says “if the court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false, the court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election”. This alone exposes the folly of INEC in arrogating on to herself the powers she does not possess as it is only a competent court of law that can disqualify a candidate for whatsoever reason.”
Amakiri argued that it amounted to double standard and serious indictment on an INEC that is heavily funded with the country’s collective wealth in a budget larger than that of six States in Nigeria put together at every general elections to allow governorship candidates whose deputies were far below the stipulated age requirement to participate in the just-concluded general elections in most states of the federation especially in Zamfara and Akwa-ibom.
“We doubt the neutrality and capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a free, fair and credible election in Kogi and Bayelsa State respectively and by this vote of no confidence calling on the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to immediately resign his appointment on the basis of his managerial incompetence, abuse of public office and flagrant abuse of the constitution.
“Conclusively, we are also calling on the international community, civil society organizations and all patriotic Nigerians to beam their searchlights on the activities of INEC in order not to have a repeat of the sham called general elections conducted earlier this year,” he noted.