Kogi Election: INEC complies with court order, includes SDP, APM on ballot

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has included the candidates of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, and the Allied People’s Movement(APM), Yusuf Dantalle, on the ballot for Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi State.

The inclusion is in compliance with court judgements overruling INEC on the disqualification of the candidates.

INEC had declared the nomination of the candidates inappropriate and refused to list them for Saturday’s governorship election.

But the Federal High Court in Abuja said INEC does not have the power to disqualify the candidates, ordering that they be included in the ballot for the election.

Ms Akpoti had alleged that her disqualification was a product of collusion between INEC and the APC to whittle down the opposition in favour of the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello.

She had gone to court to challenge her disqualification, saying she was qualified to run as governor.

The APM candidate was only cleared on Tuesday after the court ruled that INEC should not go ahead with the election without the name of the candidate on the ballot.

The commission, while interacting with journalists in Lokoja on Wednesday, said the court judgments had their cost implications and had made the Kogi election more expensive since the ballot papers would have to be reprinted over again after every new judgment.

Festus Okoye, who is INEC’s Head of Information and Voter Education, and his colleague, Osaze Uzzi, informed the media that INEC would need to work with the judiciary to find a way to avert the current situation where a court judgment would disrupt the smooth preparation for an election.

Mr Okoye said the commission needed to clear all litigations regarding nominations one month to any election.

He, however, said INEC had the powers by virtue of the relevant sections of the Electoral Act 2010, to look into the qualifications of candidates.

He said the election would hold on Saturday as scheduled, in spite of the court judgments.

He said to ensure the fidelity of the election, members of the academia that would act as returning officers, would be taken from federal institutions outside of Kogi and Bayelsa states.

“Resident Electoral Commissioners from Bauchi, Enugu, Rivers and Lagos States will be in Kogi to help in conducting the election,” he said.

He said two other national commissioners of INEC, namely: Muhammed Haruna and Mustapha Lekki, would be on the ground.

The APM candidate had suggested that the election should be postponed given the fact that he was cleared to run for only a few days to the poll.

Mr Dantalle said he had no more confidence in the INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, saying he should resign over what he called his bias in the Kogi election.

He said he had no time to campaign since the court only cleared him on Tuesday evening in Abuja.

“The election should be postponed because as it is I was shut out of the campaign. In a few days, the campaign will close. This is what they wanted to do,” said Mr Dantalle.

“I was stifled, I couldn’t move under the same man (Yakubu). He tied my hands and feet and I couldn’t move. Is that man worthy of conducting the election? The answer is no.”

The candidate said he would need about three weeks for the campaign to enable him to reach out to the people of the state.

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