Tribunal Verdict: INEC defends disqualification of ANDP’s candidate in Bayelsa poll

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained why the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) was excluded from participating in the governorship election in Bayelsa state.

Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, defended the commission’s decision in an interview with NAN in Abuja on Monday.

According to Okoye, following the nullification of the Bayelsa governorship election petition tribunal on Monday, INEC may respond to some of the issues raised by the tribunal when it is availed of the full judgment of the case.

He said the ANDP was one of the political parties that signified its intention to contest the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa governorship election, and the party conducted primaries and submitted the name of one Peter David as its deputy governorship candidate.

“As at the time of the submission of the name of the said candidate, he was 34 years old, contrary to Section 177(b) of the constitution that makes it mandatory for a candidate for such office to attain the age of 35 years to be eligible to contest the election,” Okoye said.

“In the candidate’s statutory declaration of age and affidavit attached to his form, the party stated that he was born on February 10, 1985.

“On September 13, 2019, the commission wrote to the party drawing their attention to the constitutional age requirement of 35 years for governorship/deputy governorship candidates as stipulated in Section 177(b) of the constitution.

“The commission also informed them of the invalidity of their nomination for the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa state.”

Okoye added that on September 21, 2019 and in response to the letter of the commission dated September 13, 2019, the ANDP wrote INEC, acknowledging the invalidity of its nomination, and forwarded the name of one Inowei Janeth as their new deputy governorship candidate.

“On September 27, 2019, the commission informed the party that the deadline for the submission of nominations as provided for in the timetable and schedule of activities released by the commission on May 16, 2019 was September 9, 2019,” he said.

“The commission also informed the party that since they did not submit valid nomination, they couldn’t validly substitute any candidate.

“Consequently, the name and logo of the party did not appear and was not reflected in the ballot paper.

“It is pertinent to note that the party did not exercise its right guaranteed in the fourth alteration to the constitution by filing its suit within 14 days of the accrual of the said right as the issues canvassed are pre-election issues.

“The commission may respond to some of the issues raised in the judgment of the tribunal when we are availed of the full judgment and the reasons for the judgment.”

The Ibrahim Sirajo-led panel of the Bayelsa governorship election petition tribunal had annulled the election that held in the state on November 16, 2019, over the exclusion of ANDP from the exercise.

ANDP had, in a petition it lodged before the tribunal, contended that it was unlawfully excluded from participating in the election by INEC in spite of the fact that it fulfilled all the statutory requirements.

The tribunal said it found merit in the petition and consequently nullified the Bayelsa governorship poll, and ordered INEC to conduct another election in the state within 90 days.

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