ELECTORAL POWERS, enabled by Electoral Acts 2022, vested on Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is on for test, ahead of 2023 general elections. The power lesson is playing out with the electoral body’s leaving the spaces of Yobe North; and Akwa Ibom North West senatorial tickets of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, vacant, on the commission’s published list of senatorial candidates vying for election in 2023.
Ahmad Lawan, Senate President, and Godswill Akpabio, former minister of Niger Delta ministry; both on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, are engaged in a bitter power tussle in their respective senatorial districts, with those INEC said it recognized as the legitimate senatorial candidates who emerged from the primaries conducted by APC in the States, and monitored by INEC.
INEC’s personnel monitored the primaries in both zones, and submitted reports that Bashir Machina was the duly recognised senatorial candidate for Yobe North; and Udom Ekpoudom, duly recognised candidate for Akwa Ibom North West. At the time the primaries were held, Lawan and Akpabio were busy, chasing their tall presidential ambition on the platform of the ruling party. Their chase ended in futility.
Lawan and Akpabio returned to their senatorial districts, to reclaim the senatorial tickets, they legitimately did not contest. Swiftly, the national leadership of the ruling APC, replaced Machina with Lawan in Yobe North; and replaced Ekpoudom with Akpabio, Akwa Ibom North West; while submitting the names of candidates who will contest the 2023 senatorial election on the platform of the party to INEC,
WITH SWELLING CRITICISM of the exercise, INEC, at the weekend, issued a statement signed by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, that the commission stands by the election reports received from the commission’s State Offices on Yobe North and Akwa Ibom North West senatorial districts primaries conducted by the APC; which recognised Bashir Machina, Yobe North; and Udom Ekpoudom, Akwa Ibom North West.
INEC said the commission was reluctant to publish the names of the actual winners of the ruling APC senatorial candidates in the two senatorial districts; due to the controversial circumstances on which the names of Ahmad Lawan appeared in Yobe North; and Godswill Akpabio appeared in Akwa Ibom North West. And the two expected candidates were missing from the particulars received by the commission from the party.
Okoye’s statement, in parts said: “The attention of the commission has been drawn to speculations circulating online on the outcome of some of the recent primaries conducted by political parties and related issues. In particular, allegations intended to impugn the integrity of the commission have been made in respect of the Akwa Ibom North West and Yobe North senatorial districts.
“To set the record straight, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandates the commission to monitor the organisation and operation of political parties, including their finances, conventions, congresses and party primaries.
“In line with its constitutional and legal obligations, the commission deployed monitors to the various constituencies and received reports of such exercise. In relation to the primaries for the Akwa Ibom North West and Yobe North Senatorial Districts, the commission stands by the reports received from our state offices”.
INEC said it left the spaces blank when it published the names of senatorial candidates, about two weeks ago, because it did not recognise the names submitted by the leadership of the party. As such did not publish the personal particulars of any candidate for the two senatorial constituencies; which are at variance with INEC State reports.
And added: “Right now, the commission is funtus officio in the two cases. Aggrieved parties are at liberty to approach the Federal High Court and seek redress as provided in section 285 of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and sections 29(5) and 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022”.
ON INEC’S WORKLOAD, Okoye said the commission received, total of 433 requests for Certified True Copies, which involve certification of 1,662,776 pages of documents. And the commission’s staff has been “working hard, including weekends, to meet the deluge of requests received”. The requests, INEC further stated, are awaiting collection at the INEC headquarters.
INEC said “Section 29 (4) of the Electoral Act provides that any person may apply to the Commission for a copy of nomination form, affidavit, and any other document submitted by a candidate at an election and the Commission shall, upon payment of a prescribed fee, issue such person with a certified copy of document within 14 days”.
The commission advised “persons applying for CTC of documents should endeavour to act timely and within the ambit of the law”. And added that “the Commission will continue to uphold the integrity of the electoral process, including the deepening of the deployment of technology to enhance the credibility of elections”.