By Chidimma UCHEGBU
The governorship candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), in Delta State, Comrade Igbini Odafe Emmanuel, has faulted claims by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that placeholders may not be changed as earlier believed.
In a press statement made available to journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, Comrade Emmanuel said the claim as stated by the INEC Commissioner, Festus Okoye, was without constitutional basis.
He said the INEC position was a falsehood deliberately crafted to hoodwink and deceive Nigerians.
He said: “As a political activist and a former three-time governorship candidate, I am compelled to react to the recent claim by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through its National Commissioner Barr. Festus Okoye, that there exist no place in Nigerian Constitution and Legal Framework for what is now described as “placeholders” in Nigeria electoral process specifically as it concerns submission, change or substitution of names of candidates for general elections by registered political parties.
“This claim by INEC is a fundamental falsehood deliberately made by it to mislead Nigerian voters and to cast aspersion on some political parties like APC and Labour Party which publicly disclosed that the names they submitted to INEC as their Vice Presidential Candidates were meant only to beat the June 17, 2022 date set by INEC but which they may change or substitute within the window provided by the sections 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2021, as amended to do so.
“Contrary to INEC’s claim, I wish to state unequivocally that actions taken by APC and LP are constitutional and in line with sections 29, 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2021, as amended. The use of the word, “Placeholder” is merely misinterpreted by INEC. “Placeholder” simply means that it is not substantive but temporarily standing in for something or someone else. The word is used in solving Algebraic Expression and Equations in Mathematics.
“Let me also inform Nigerians that this idea of changing or substituting candidates for general elections have been in our electoral laws of 2006, 2010 and now 2021, as amended.
“Furthermore, it is imperative for me to inform Nigerians that changing or substituting candidates for elections is not limited to only Vice Presidential Candidates as we now seem to focus on. In fact, all names so far submitted by Political Parties to INEC as Presidential, Vice Presidential, Senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly Candidates are all “Placeholders” and can be changed or substituted before the 90 days to date of election, after which, no change or substitution is allowed except case of death of a candidate.
“For avoidance of doubt, I here reproduced verbatim, sections 29, 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2021 as amended:
“Section 29(1) states that: “Every political party shall not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under the provisions of 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 a valid primaries conducted by the political party.
“(2) the List or Information submitted by each candidate shall be accompanied by an Affidavit sworn to by each candidate at the Federal High Court, High Court of a State, or Federal Capital Territory High Court indicating that he or she has fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into that office
“Section 31 states that: “A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered personally by the candidate to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdraw to the Commission not later than 90 days to the election.
“Section 33 states that: “A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate: provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned.”
“In conclusion, APC and LP have not acted against the Constitution and Electoral Act of Nigeria”.