Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) breached the provisions of the newly enacted Electoral Act by submitting the names of Ahmad Lawan and Godswill Akpabio to the electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as senatorial candidates.
Falana, who is a principal partner at Falana & Falana Chambers, said it was “brazen impunity” for the APC to have contradicted the laws of the land.
This was disclosed in a statement issued on Wednesday on the development.
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.”
According to Falana, “any primary of a political party not monitored by officials of INEC is illegal”.
He noted that “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 issue’.
Falana continued, “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“This position is quite different from the provision in Section 31 of the repealed Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which provided that INEC could not reject the name of any candidate submitted by the parties for any reason whatsoever.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 clearly fortified by Section 84(13).
“Thus, INEC having sent a team of monitors across its 36 states offices and the Federal Capital Territory, to monitor the primaries, 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.”
LAGOS HERALD had reported that the APC had submitted the names of Lawan, Senate President, and Akpabio, a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to INEC as APC senatorial candidates for Yobe North senatorial district and Akwa Ibom North-West respectively even though the duo did not secure the tickets of the party.
It was Bashir Machina who won the party’s ticket for Yobe North senatorial district while Udom Ekpoudom won the primaries for Akwa Ibom North-West, but the names of the winners were not submitted by the ruling party.
Abdullahi Adamu, the National Chairman of the APC recently said Lawan participated in the primary “within the stipulated time”, while Jackson Udom, spokesman for Akpabio, had maintained that the primary the former minister won was approved by the party at the national level.
However, there have been speculations that both candidates may have issues regarding the tickets.
Falana said the only way the APC can present Akpabio and Lawan as its senatorial candidates is if Machina and Ekpoudom “voluntarily withdraw”.