Dozens of supporters gathered at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja on Tuesday to protest the alleged disqualification of Natasha Akpoti, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate, from contesting in the November 16 Kogi governorship election.
Ms Akpoti told journalists that INEC was making it difficult to replace the party’s governorship running mate, Muhammad Yakubu, who was disqualified because he is younger than the 35 years required by law for a deputy governorship candidate.
”They want to disqualify me. There is a plot by INEC, and we do know that (it is supported by) some people from the Kogi APC who are probably afraid of their defeat come November 16.
”The reason put forward for disqualification, they said my deputy is actually under aged being 34 years old. Even though we put forward a substitution last week Thursday, we substituted with an engineer who is 48-years old, still INEC rejected it.
”Moreover, it would have been different if I was coming for a substitution after the closing date which is like today (Tuesday) but I was here yesterday (Monday).”
Ms Akpoti citing section 31 of the Electoral Act, said the commission does not have any right to reject any nomination made by a party.
”Section 31 subsection 8a also made clear that if a party does a nomination that does not meet up with the qualification and is required for INEC to take a candidate, then INEC should go to court for the court to give an order. On conviction, the party would be punished or pay a fine of N500,000 but not to be rejected at the end of the day.
Some leaders of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) joined the protest.
The YPP National Chairman, Bishop Amakiri, said that they would not allow INEC to unjustly disqualify any candidate for the off-cycle elections.
“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.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission was merely requesting for political parties to “do the right thing.”
“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,” he said.
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