INEC: We won’t accept ‘underage’ candidates anymore

48

Independent National Electoral Commission on Friday said it would no longer accept nominations of candidates below statutory age limits for elections.

INEC was reacting to criticisms of its disqualification of some candidates in the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

It described the practice as unconstitutional.

IINEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, who issued the warning in a statement, said the electoral body had issued notices on the matter to political parties before the
2019 elections.

“Members of the public may recall that just before the 2019 general elections, the Commission had cause to draw the attention of political parties to the same problem of nominating underaged candidates. That communication was a notice to the parties that future violation of such a basic provision of the Constitution would be unacceptable and could lead to severe consequences.

“Accordingly, the Commission has informed the affected parties that their names and logos will not appear on the ballots for the Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections due to the invalidity of their nominations.”
He noted that the agency did not axe the candidates without informing their parties.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) monitored the primaries conducted by political parties for the nomination of candidates for the November 16, 2019 Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.

“On September 12, 2019, the Commission informed the public that 64 political parties conducted primaries in Bayelsa State and 59 in Kogi State. Out of these, 52 political parties for Bayelsa State and 49 for Kogi State respectively, submitted the list and personal particulars of their candidates at the close of nomination at 6 pm on Monday, September 9, 2019.

“The Commission also informed the public that from its preliminary review of the list and personal particulars submitted by the parties at the close of nomination, some of the Governorship and Deputy Governorship candidates were below the minimum age prescribed by the Constitution and that the Commission was considering further action.

“By a letter dated September 13, 2019, the Commission notified the concerned political parties of the invalidity of their nominations. In Bayelsa State, six of the nominated Governorship and/or Deputy Governorship candidates were affected, while in Kogi State there were eight such nominees.

“Some of the affected parties have written the Commission admitting their error and requesting to submit new nominees to replace the underaged ones. However, this was after the deadline for submission of nominations on September 9, 2019. As such the Commission could not accept any fresh nominations.

“In like manner, since the parties did not submit valid nominations before the deadline, they cannot substitute the candidates on the grounds of death or voluntary withdrawal, in accordance with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), which assumes the prior existence of valid nominations.”

According to the statemen, 23 political parties in Kogi State will present candidates out of 49 that initially filed nominations while 45 political parties will be fielding candidates for the same exercise in Bayelsa State.

“At the close of the time stipulated by sections 31, 33 and 35 of Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) for the submission of the names of nominated candidates, 49 nominations were received for Kogi State. Out of these, 41 nominations were valid, while 8 were invalid. Subsequently, 18 political parties withdrew from contesting the elections.

“Therefore, 23 political parties will contest the Governorship election in Kogi State. For Bayelsa State, a total of 52 nominations were received. Out of these, 46 were valid, while 6 were invalid. One political party has since withdrawn from the contest, leaving a total of 45 political parties to contest the governorship election in Bayelsa State.”

INEC added that “in compliance with section 34 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated will be published in the relevant offices and on the website of the Commission on Monday, September 30, 2019.”