Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), on Wednesday condemned the ruling All Progressives Congress over its plan to field the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and former Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio as senatorial candidates in 2023.
Recall that Bashir Machina had won APC’s ticket for Yobe north senatorial district, while Udom Ekpoudom won the ticket for Akwa Ibom north-west.
The primaries were held on the 27th of May and were monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Akpabio and Lawan, however, lost the presidential ticket of the ruling party in the presidential primary held on the 3rd of June.
Days after Akpabio withdrew from the presidential primary in support of Bola Tinubu, he was declared the winner of another primary, but the resident electoral commissioner (REC) of Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini noted that the primary which produced the former minister wasn’t monitored by officials of INEC.
In the case of Lawan, Machina refused to step down for the Senate President after his defeat in the presidential primary.
Meanwhile, according to the list submitted by the ruling party to the electoral body, Akpabio and Lawan were listed as senatorial candidates.
The National Chairman of APC, Abdullahi Adamu had also claimed that a primary was held where Lawan was declared the winner.
Falana while reacting to the development in a statement released on Wednesday charged INEC to do the needful.
He added that Lawan and Akpabio can only emerge as candidates for the party if Machina and Ekpoudom decide to step down.
The statement reads, “apart from the brazen impunity of the APC, Dr Ahmed Lawan superintended the passage of the Electoral Act by the national assembly while Senator Godwin Akpabio is a senior lawyer who ought to have familiarised with the provisions of the Act.
“The monitoring by INEC is mandatory. To that extent, any primary of a political party not monitored by officials of INEC is illegal.
“Contrary to the views credited to Mr Haruna, the powers of INEC have gone beyond “merely to monitor” party primaries. For the avoidance of doubt, Section: 84 (13) unequivocally provides that “Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in the issue.
“The legal implication of the provision is that INEC shall not include the candidate for the particular election. Furthermore, Section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which provides for the submission of lists of candidates and their affidavits by political parties states that “Every political party shall, not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed Forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the political party.
“This means that section 29(1) thereof has imposed a duty on political parties to ensure that the candidates whose names are submitted to INEC have emerged from valid primaries.
“This position is quite different from the provision in Section 31 of the repealed Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which provided that INEC could not reject the name of any candidate submitted by the parties for any reason whatsoever.
“Thus, in the present law, the parties can only submit for the Commission’s acceptance the names of candidates who emerged from valid primaries conducted by the parties and monitored by INEC. This position is fortified by Section 84(13).
“Thus, INEC has sent a team of monitors across its 36 States offices and the Federal Capital Territory, to monitor the primaries, and is legally obligated to check the names submitted to it and ensure they are confirmed by the various reports compiled by its officials.
“If the candidates whose names are submitted to INEC have not emerged from the primaries, the Commission will reject such names in the exercise of its power under Section 84(13) of the Electoral Act 2022.”