The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has been accused of plotting to get the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to substitute his name as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial rerun election.
Elections Transparency Group (ETG) made the claim in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, alleging that the former governor and former Senate minority leader intended to do that for fear of another defeat.
Akpabio was defeated in the 2019 senatorial election for Akwa Ibom North electoral district by Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But an Appeal Court ruling ordered that a re-run election be conducted in Essien Udim Local Government Area to determine the winner of the election.
However, ETG, in its statement signed by its convener, Dr. Kazeem Adekunle said, “Information available is to the effect that Senator Akpabio is plotting with INEC to substitute his name as the APC candidate for the Akwa Ibom North-West rerun election, fearing he will lose.
“He was at INEC office on Monday, December 10, 2019, where he held closed-door meetings with some top officials of the commission to substitute his name during the forthcoming rerun election.”
The group, therefore, urged INEC not to allow itself to be used to perpetrate illegality.
It said there were two options available to Senator Akpabio or anyone in his situation; to either resign as a minister as provided by the law or withdraw from the election.
“The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is clear as to whether or nor Akpabio can stand for the election without resigning his appointment as minister. Section 66(1)(f) provides that ‘No person shall be qualified for election to the Senate or House of Representatives if he is a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State and has not resigned, withdraw or retired from such employment thirty days before the day of the election.’
“The only condition in which a party can substitute its candidate in an election that is already ongoing is if the candidate dies as it happened in of Kogi State governorship election in 2015.
“It will, therefore, amount to the height of impunity and lawlessness for INEC to contemplate substitution of Senator Akpabio’s name or allow him to stand as a candidate in the rerun election without resigning his appointment as a minister,” the group said.
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