The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has defended its decision to bar the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) from participating in the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa state.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee said that the ANDP was excluded from the election after it presented a thirty-four year old man Peter David as the party’s candidate for deputy governor.
“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 said that the ANDP replied INEC on September 21, 2019 acknowledging the invalidity of its nomination, and forwarded the name of one Inowei Janeth as its 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, citing the exclusion of ANDP from the poll as its reason.
ANDP had, in its petition before the tribunal, argued that it was unlawfully excluded from participating in the election despite the fact that it fulfilled all the statutory requirements.
The election tribunal said it found merit in the ANDP’s petition and nullified the Bayelsa governorship election. Mr Sirajo and his peers then ordered INEC to conduct another election in the state within ninety days.