The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been warned to avoid allowing itself to be used to perpetrate illegality by accepting a new candidate from the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Akwa Ibom North West rerun election to replace the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who has formally notified the party of his intention to withdraw from the election.
Akpabio, had reportedly written a letter dated December 2, 2019 to the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, saying that he could not abandoned his assignment as a minister in pursuit of a rerun election and urged the party to write INEC, in line with Section 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010, and submit a replacement to run in his place.
Reacting, Election Transparency Group (ETG), in a statement on Wednesday, which was signed by its Convener, Dr Kazeem Adekunle, said political parties can only substitute candidates 45 days to the election and not before a supplementary election.
The Statement read; “For the avoidance of doubt, Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2010, made provision for political party to only change its candidate nominated pursuant to Section 32 except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.
“However, Section 35 made it expressly clear that in the case of withdrawal by the candidate, substitution can only be made if it is done not later than 45 days to the election.
“Section 33 provides that; ‘A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to section 32 of this of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.’
“While Section 35 provides that; ‘A candidate may withdraw his candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered by himself to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission not later than 45 days to the election.’
“In this instant case, the election is a rerun in one of the 10 Local Government Areas in which the Senatorial election was conducted on February 23, 2019, about 300 days ago.
“The only situation where a political party can substitute candidate in an ongoing election like the Akwa Ibom North-West rerun will be pursuant to Section 36 (1). That is; in the event that the candidate dies.
“In this case, Senator Akpabio is still alive. He only chooses to chicken out of the contest because he has been appointed minister and he cannot take the gamble of resigning his position as a minister to contest an election he is not sure of winning. Therefore, APC seeking to substitute Akpabio with another candidate will mean the party and Akpabio eating their cake and still having it.
“Also, owing to his failure to cause the removal of the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Mike Igini and having realized that with Igini as REC, he won’t be able to perpetrate his planned manipulation of the election, Senator Akpabio decided to abandon the Senatorial election.
“INEC must therefore reject any move by the APC to foist illegality on the commission by changing the party’s candidate in an ongoing election.
“It is either Akpabio resigns and minister and stand as APC candidate in the election or APC accepts its fate of not having a candidate.”