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…As INEC denied any planned disqualification
The supporters of the Social Democratic numbering over 300 stormed the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja to protest against alleged plans to disqualify its candidate for the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, Natasha Akpoti.
The angry protesters carried placards with various inscriptions, including ‘Natasha must contest, we no go gree’, ‘Natasha is Kogi’s hope’, ‘Say No to intimidation, Natasha is our choice’, ‘We are for peace’ and ‘It is Natasha or nobody.’
The SDP protesters, who were also joined by some leaders of the Young Progressive Party and Allied Peoples Movement, vowed not to vacate the INEC premises until their issue was addressed formally.
Attempts by security personnel attached to the commission, including anti-riot and regular policemen and operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, to disperse the protesters proved abortive as they stood their ground.
Sources said that Muhammad Bashiru Yakubu who was initially submitted by SDP as it governorship running mate in Kogi State was less than 35 years of age as prescribed by the electoral law.
The party, therefore, sought to replace him with Khalid Adam, an Engineer.
The letter written by SDP to INEC to that effect on Monday, which was the deadline set for replacement of names of candidates, was reportedly turned down by the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu.
The implication that SDP would not field a candidate for the election.
Akpoti in an interview with journalists during the protest declared that they would not sit back and allow INEC disenfranchise them.
She said, “I am a Nigerian. We will not sit back and allow INEC to disenfranchise us and derail our democracy”.
Akpoti expressed dismay as to why INEC was making it difficult for SDP to make a replacement within the stipulated period set by the same INEC.
The SDP candidate and two others were later allowed into the INEC office to meet some officials of the commission.
The national chairman of the YPP, Bishop Amakree, stated that the judiciary should be allowed to interprete the law, stressing that it was not for INEC to do so.
He said, “It is the judiciary that will interpret the law and not INEC that will Interpret the law for us. We are contesting this governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa States by the special grace of God, and we will win. INEC will be put into shame in Kogi and Bayelsa States.”
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, told journalists that, “The commission has not yet taken a decision on the disqualification or otherwise of political parties or their candidates.”
“You cannot tell a political party that its nominated candidate has been rejected without valid reasons, Oyekanmi emphasised.