A FEDERAL High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise and publish Godswill Akpabio’s name as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the Akwa Ibom North- West Senatorial District in the 2023 elections.
The court, presided by Justice Emeka Nwite, giving the judgment today, held that INEC acted illegally by refusing to accept and publish Akpabio’s name since it had been sent to it by the APC.
The ICIR reported in June that INEC had insisted that Akpabio was not the candidate of the APC in the Akwa-Ibom North-West Senatorial District because the Commission did not monitor the APC primary, which Akpabio claimed to have won.
The former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, spoke on the issue in an interview on Uyo-based Comfort FM.
Igini stressed that the Commission’s rejection of Akpabio as the party’s senatorial candidate for the district was final and could not be reversed.
Igini said the only way Akpabio could become the party’s flagbearer for the senatorial poll was through the voluntary withdrawal, or death, of the aspirant that had previously won the ticket.
He said even if APC was to conduct a rerun or new primary, Akpabio’s name could not be on the ballot as he was not among the aspirants that participated in the first primary.
“The report of the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District APC primary as submitted to INEC headquarters in Abuja is final. It is concluded. The train has left the station. The timeline is clear. All those who are in politics should go and study the 2022 Electoral Act very well.
“By virtue of Section 31 of the 2022 Electoral Act, the only way somebody can be replaced in any form is that we no longer have substitution by political party. What you have now is withdrawal by an individual or nominee and/or death.
“I hear people talk about substitution. If you look at Section 31 and Section 34 of the Electoral Act, those of you who are still carrying the old idea of the 2010 and 2012 Electoral Act in your head, thinking you can substitute wilfully, it is no longer so.
“Then, number two is only in the case of death. Even at that, there will now be a fresh primary. This is the new law. So, what we are seeing going on is clearly a misnomer,” Igini had said.
The APC had conducted a primary election that produced Udom Udo Ekpoudom as the party’s candidate for the senatorial district, but later held a different primary that saw Akpabio emerge as the winner.
The fresh primary followed Akpabio’s failed presidential bid. He had resigned his appointment as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to contest the recent APC presidential primary.
He withdrew at the last minute and endorsed Bola Tinubu, who eventually won the APC presidential ticket.
Nigeria’s electoral law empowers INEC to monitor political party primaries.