The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate, Natasha Akpoti, was not validly nominated by the party to run on its ticket for the November 16 governorship election.
The INEC’s National Commissioner and chairman, Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, who said this in Lokoja Wednesday, the commission could not have disqualified someone not validly nominated by any party for a contest.
The former APC member and senatorial aspirant had recently led her supporters to INEC headquarters to protest her exclusion from the list of candidates released by the INEC for the November 16 governorship poll.
However, Akpoti has challenged the INEC saying they don’t have the statutory powers to deny her of the right to be voted for, and has subsequently challenged the validity of her exclusion in court.
The INEC commissioner further said the SDP deputy governorship candidate did not meet up to the 35 years of age as stipulated by law, and as such not eligible to be nominated.
“The SDP candidate was deemed not to have submitted a candidate’s name for the November 16 Kogi governorship election by law, since as at the close of nomination, the party’s deputy governorship candidate was not validly nominated.
“She (Natasha) submitted her nomination without valid submission of deputy, and therefore did not submit any valid submission,” he explained.
Even then, he pointed out disparity in the age declared by the deputy candidate stating: “The SDP deputy governorship candidate in a sworn affidavit contained in his form CF001, which he deposed to on 6th September 2019, indicated that he was born on 5th October 1985, while his attached state of origin form showed he was born on the 5th of October, 1987.”
Okoye said disqualification based on failure to meet the specified age was not peculiar to Natasha alone as three out of four SDP candidates between Bayelsa and Kogi states respectively were disqualified: “You have not heard them talk about Bayelsa, only here (Kogi). How then do you speak of conspiracy?”, he said noting that the matter is being overflogged.
According to him, following the invalid nomination of the SDP deputy governorship candidate, on grounds of age, and by virtue of his status, which the constitution says must be deemed to be same with that of the governorship candidate that nominated him as running mate, the party was deemed to have submitted nothing, as at the close of nomination, and ad such “could not build something on nothing,” through their planned substitution.
Okoye explained that eight political parties submitted invalid nominations for the Kogi state governorship election, while 18 others withdrew their nomination, adding that 23 political parties will participate in the November 16 governorship poll in the state.
But in a swift reaction, Akpoti assured her supporters that the SDP logo would be on the ballot papers on the day of election.
“I am in court for an injunction. If the court fails in upholding my civil right to contest, then I alongside patriotic Nigerians shall peacefully protest.
“I still consider myself being in the race, because INEC has no authority to reject nor disqualify my candidacy/SDP from contesting, for whatever reasons; section 31(1) of the 2015 Electoral Act.
“I urge everyone to keep the spirit of positivity up, and trust enough to utilize the citizens’ powers in themselves to reject any systemic manipulation to disenfranchise our candidacy. SDP’s logo shall be on the ballot come November 16 and the good people of Kogi state shall have a chance of electing (me) a credible and capable leader.”