The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reacted to a suit by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking the disqualification of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi from the 2023 presidential election.
Bellnews Online reports that the PDP on Thursday had filed a lawsuit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stop Labour Party’s Obi and the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu from selecting Kashim Shettima and Datti Baba-Ahmed as their running mates.
The PDP also asked the court to rule that Tinubu and Obi cannot run for office unless they do so with their respective former running mates, Kabiru Masari and Doyin Okupe.
In the originating summons with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1016/2022, the PDP is seeking an order barring the INEC from replacing the running mates of Tinubu and Obi.
The first to seventh respondents in the case are INEC, APC, Tinubu, Masari, Labour Party, Obi, and Okupe.
The PDP asked the court to determine if by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the constitution, Section 29(1), 31, and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, and INEC’s timetable, Tinubu and Obi are bound by the submission of Masari and Okupe respectively as their running mates.
Speaking about the suit during an Arise TV interview on Friday, Festus Okoye, the INEC Commissioner for Information and Voter Education Committee, said only the court could decide if the presidential candidates who swapped their running mates could be disqualified on those bases.
He further added that the commission is unaware if they had been served with the court processes as the INEC chairman, himself and other national commissioners had just returned from Osun State where they held meetings with stakeholders ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
He said; “So, I am not aware of whether we’ve been served with any document relating to any suit of the complexion that you have talked about.
But let me just say that if a matter is in court, the matter is sub-judice and we are not supposed to comment on it.
Secondly, when political parties submitted the names of their presidential candidates and their vice-presidential candidates, there was no provision for a placeholder in the forms they submitted.
“They submitted the forms for their presidential candidates and they submitted the forms for the vice-presidential candidates and that is the situation.
“However, if you look at section 33 of the Electoral 22, it says that a political party shall not be allowed to substitute or change its candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of the Electoral Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.
But it goes ahead to say that provided that in the case of such a withdrawal or death of the candidate, the political parties affected shall within occurrence of the event hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the commission for the election concerned.
“This is the particular position that we are following. In the case of Senatorial candidates and House of Representatives candidates and so on and so forth, it is mandatory for them to hold fresh party primaries (after) the withdrawal of their candidates.”
Okoye added, “But in the case of a presidential candidate and in the case of a governorship candidate, the political parties nominate a vice presidential candidate and also a deputy governorship candidate.
Whether they are candidates or not and whether they are supposed to go into the fresh 14-day primaries, I am not in a position to make a determination in relation to that.”