By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
Indications have emerged that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may have rejected the new candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC for Saturday’s rerun elections in Akwa Ibom Northwest Senatorial District.
Following the appointment of its candidate, Sen. Godswill Akpabio as Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, APC had last month forwarded a replacement to INEC for the rerun election slated for this Saturday.
However, speaking Tuesday in Abuja during the swearing-in of two new Resident Electoral Commissioners RECs, Dr Alalibo Sinikiem Johnson from Bayelsa State and Umar Mukhtar Gajiram from Borno State, Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said since the rerun elections are court-ordered exercises, political parties are barred by law from substituting their candidates.
“On Saturday this week, elections will hold in 28 constituencies spread across 11 States of the Federation. Six of these elections involve entire constituencies while 22 elections will be held only in some polling units.
“In all the constituencies, the elections will be contested by the same political parties and candidates that participated in the 2019 general election except where the elections were nullified on grounds of candidate disqualification.
“The two affected constituencies are Gamawa Federal Constituency in Bauchi State and Agwara State Constituency in Niger State where elections will be held without the candidates and parties that were declared winners in the general election.
“There will be no substitution of candidates as these are not bye-elections but court-ordered re-run elections and the period for nomination of candidates had elapsed since the end of 2018 in preparation for the 2019 general election”, Yakubu said.
INEC also announced its readiness for the 28 rerun elections which would take place across 11 states of the Federation.
“I wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission is ready for the re-run elections. All sensitive and non-sensitive materials have been deployed to the States, stakeholders’ meetings have been held, security arrangements are being finalised while training and posting of ad hoc staff, as well as the configuration of Smart Card Readers, are ongoing.
Where the elections involve entire constituencies, National as well as some Resident Electoral Commissioners will be deployed”, the INEC boss stated.
He said the Commission will work with security agencies to ensure adequate protection of election officials, accredited observers, the media and the processes generally against acts inimical to the conduct of peaceful and credible elections.
“We have received assurances from the security agencies of adequate protection of the processes in line with the rules of engagement for election duty”.
On the new RECs, Yakubu disclosed that while Dr Johnson is from Bayelsa State and replaces the former REC of Cross River State, Mr Gajiram replaces the former REC of Taraba State who died a few months ago.
“Dr Johnson holds a BSc. degree in Political Science and a Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies. Until this appointment, he was a Lecturer at the Niger Delta University in Bayelsa State. Mr Gajiram holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
“He served in various capacities in the Borno State civil service until his retirement as a substantive Director.
“Let me, therefore, congratulate Dr Johnson and Mr Gajiram on their appointment. As I told your colleagues on the occasion of their swearing-in as RECs, you will also be responsible for the implementation of the Commission’s policies.
“In doing so, you will exercise supervisory control over personnel, resources as well the legal and administrative processes in the State to which you are deployed.
“You will also interact with various categories of stakeholders. In doing so, you must maintain the required openness and consultation. At the same time, you must be very firm in the discharge of your responsibilities.
“As RECs, you can be deployed to any part of the country at any time the exigencies of service require but you will never serve in your States of origin throughout your tenure.
“In line with this policy, Dr Johnson is hereby deployed to Cross River State while Mr Gajiram is deployed to Taraba State”, he declared.