The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has maintained that Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, remains the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District rerun on January 25.
The clarification was made by Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, in an interview on Tuesday.
Akpabio and the APC had lost the February 28, 2019 election to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but the Court of Appeal ordered a rerun following a petition by the former.
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Following his appointment as a minister by President Muhammadu Buhari, the APC had attempted to substitute Akpabio with another member of the party, Ekperikpe Ekpo, for the rerun.
But Okoye insisted that the period for the substitution of candidates had elapsed and that the APC will have to field the minister as its candidate.
“The commission has consistently maintained that only duly nominated candidates that contested the nullified election are eligible to contest the court-ordered rerun election. There is no room for withdrawal or substitution at this point.
“The votes of the parties in places not affected by the rerun are warehoused and on hold for integration with the votes that will be harvested during the rerun.
“Only candidates and political parties that contested the nullified election will be on the ballot. New political parties and candidates cannot be admitted into the contest.
“However, if any of the candidates passes on before the election, the commission will postpone the election and allow the party whose candidate died the opportunity to replace the candidate,” Okoye told the Punch.
Similarly, a letter by INEC’s Secretary, Mrs Rose Oriraran-Anthony, to the APC also read, “Your letter dated December 10, 2019 wherein you forwarded nomination forms of one Ekperikpe Luke Ekpo as a substitute candidate of your party for the court-ordered rerun refers.
“Please note that the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections has November 17, 2018, as the last day for the withdrawal/substitution of candidates for the 2019 National Assembly elections, and the said period has lapsed.
“Further, the said rerun election is to be conducted amongst the same political parties and the candidates who participated in the nullified election.
“Consequent upon the above, the commission cannot accede to your request and Senator Godswill Akpabio remains the candidate of the APC for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District court-ordered re-run election.”
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