Social Democratic Party (SDP) has sued the Independent National Electoral Commission over the decision of the latter to reject the nomination of the SDP and its Kogi governorship candidate, Natasha Akpoti and her running mate, Muhammad Yakubu.
INEC’s National Commissioner for Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, confirmed this to our correspondent during an interview on Wednesday.
It was learned that the SDP had filed a suit before the Federal High Court, Abuja, asking the court to rule that INEC erred by disqualifying its candidates in Kogi State ahead of the November 11 poll.
INEC had last week disqualified the SDP for fielding 34-year-old Yakubu as a running mate.
The commission had stated that anyone below the age of 35 was not qualified to contest a governorship election.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, the National Chairman of the SDP, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, said the party had dragged INEC before a court.
He said INEC’s decision to disqualify the SDP was in contravention of Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act (as amended) which places no powers in the hands of the commission to reject or disqualify candidates of political parties as submitted to it within the stipulated timeframe.
Adeniran also lambasted Okoye, for saying that the SDP had agreed to accept INEC’s terms by not fielding another candidate.
He said, “In moving to disqualify our candidate for the Kogi governorship election slated for November 2019, INEC has attempted to disenfranchise Barrister Natasha Akpoti and the people of Kogi State and to deny them democratic access to change from the current decadent and oppressive government to a government of progressive social justice and economic development.
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“In addition, INEC has raised more questions about the conduct and intentions of the commission as well as the integrity and credibility of our systems and institutions which are critical to the survival of the nation. The move of INEC will be resisted in the law courts.”
The Supreme Court had in 2007 ruled that INEC had no power to disqualify any candidate submitted to it by a political party.
According to the Supreme Court, “INEC has no Constitutional power to disqualify a candidate from contesting elections without a valid order of a court.”
In his reaction, however, INEC’s spokesman said the SDP had already sued the commission and served the agency.
Okoye, therefore, advised the party to have faith in the justice system rather than organizing street protests and press conferences.
He said, “The SDP nominated candidates for the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. In Bayelsa, they nominated an underage candidate and running mate. In Kogi State, the governorship candidate was qualified while the running mate was not.
“Section 187 of the constitution makes it clear that all the criteria for the qualification of governor applies to to to do the deputy.
“On September 26, 2019, the SDP took the matter before a Federal High Court in Abuja and served the commission. So, they have already exercised their democratic rights. I believe the rational and legal thing to do is to allow the judiciary to do its work.”