The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC said on Monday that the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party in the November 16, 2019 Governorship election in Bayelsa State did not present a validly nominated candidate. The electoral umpire said in a statement in Abuja that the nomination of its Deputy Governorship candidate Peter Esinkuma David was flawed because it fell short of the mandatory age limit of 35 years as stipulated in section 177(b) of the constitution. The electoral body was reacting to a ruling by the Bayelsa Elections Petition Tribunal, Abuja which declared the election of Governor Douye Diri as illegal and consequently ordered for fresh elections. In the statement, INEC said it observed that the Deputy Governorship candidate was born on the 10th day of February, 1985.
The Commission further explained that on 13th September 2019, it wrote to ANDP drawing the party’s attention to the invalidity of the said nomination following which it subsequently forwarded the name of one Miss Inowei Janeth as replacement. The electoral umpire said on the 27th of September 2019,it informed the party that it failed to meet the September 9, deadline for submission and substitution of candidates as provided for in the Timeline and Schedule of Activities released by the Commission on the 16th of May, 2019.
The electoral body also explained that following this obvious discrepancy, the name and logo of the party did not appear and was not reflected in the ballot paper. “Furthermore the issue of nomination and substitution of candidates raised in the petition fall within the ambit of pre-election issues covered by the 4th alteration to the constitution that must be filed within 14 days of the occurrence of the event” , INEC revealed.
By section 143(1) of the Electoral Act, if the Tribunal determines that a candidate returned as elected was not validly elected, then if notice of appeal is filed within 21 days from the date of the decision, the candidate returned as elected shall notwithstanding the contrary decision remain in office pending the determination of the appeal. The Commission is not obligated to give effect to the said judgement of the Tribunal till the parties exhaust their right of appeal as provided in the law, INEC further explained.
“Moreover, there are germane constitutional issues raised by the judgement and the Commission will take a position when it receives the certified true copy of the judgement. This is because the issues raised in the petition revolve around the invalidity of the nomination of the Deputy Governorship candidate.
Furthermore, the issue of nomination and substitution of candidates raised in the petition fall within the ambit of pre-election issues covered by the 4th alteration to the Constitution that must be filed within 14 days of the occurrence of the event. From the records in the Commission, the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) was one of the Political Parties that signified its intention to contest the Bayelsa Governorship Election that took place on the 16th day of November 2019. From our records, the party conducted party primaries and at the end of the exercise it submitted the name of one Peter Esinkuma David as its Deputy Governorship candidate.
From the affidavit evidencing age and the affidavit sworn to by the candidate, the age of the candidate at the time of the submission of their nomination was 34 years contrary to section 177(b) of the Constitution that makes it mandatory that only those who are 35 and above can contest the election. In the candidates’ statutory declaration of age and affidavit attached to his form, the Party stated that the candidate was born on the 10th day of February 1985, and was 34 years on the day his name was submitted by his party. On the 13th day of September, 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 16th November 2019 Governorship election in Bayelsa State.
“On the 21st day of September 2019 and in response to the letter of the Commission dated the 13th September 2019, the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party wrote to the Commission acknowledging the invalidity of their nomination and forwarding the name of one Miss INOWEI JANETH as their new Deputy Governorship candidate.
” On the 27th of September 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 16th May 2019 was 9th September 2019. The Commission also informed the Party that since they did not submit 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. The Bayelsa State Election Tribunal led by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo had on Monday in Abuja nullified the election of Governor Douye Diri as Governor of Bayelsa State on November 16, 2019. But in a statement on Monday, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, Chief Press Secretary to the Bayelsa State Governor said Governor Douye Diri would appeal the ruling.