The Independent National Electoral Commission has faulted the ruling by the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal nullifying the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state.
The tribunal nullified the election based on a petition by the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, which argued that it was unlawfully excluded from participating in the election.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday in Abuja said the nomination by ANDP was invalid, adding 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.
He said the party conducted party primaries and submitted the name of one Peter David as its deputy governorship candidate.
He said, “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.
“In the candidate’s statutory declaration of age and an 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 further stated that on September 21, 2019 and in response to the letter of the commission dated September 13, 2019, the ANDP wrote the commission acknowledging the invalidity of its nomination and forwarded the name of one Inowei Janeth as their 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 Sept. 9, 2019.
“The commission also informed the party that since they did not submit a 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,” Okoye said.