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DON'T DRAG INEC INTO SQUABBLES, JEGA WARNS PARTIES

By NBF News
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Against the background of a petition to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seeking its rejection of the candidature of President Goodluck Jonathan in the event of his emergence as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the electoral body has warned political parties not to drag it into their internal squabbles.

The commission clarified that it was bound to accept any party candidate which emerged through statutorily stipulated process.

A pro-zoning chieftain of the PDP and presidential aspirant, Alhaji Sani Dutsima, had written INEC, asking it to compel the PDP to respect its constitutional provisions of zoning and rotation in determining its presidential candidate.

Dutsinma, who had earlier approached the court for help in getting President Jonathan barred from contesting the PDP primaries but failed, reportedly told INEC to compel PDP to reject President Jonathan as candidate of the party because his participation in the in the 2011 presidential primaries negated the spirit of zoning as enshrined in the PDP constitution.

But INEC stated that it was not a task force that could be employed to force a task down on parties, saying how the parties conducted their affairs was entirely their own business, but would ensure internal democracy reigned because lack of internal democracy within the parties constituted major cause of post election litigations.

It, however, maintained that it could decline to recognise a candidate or party official only if he or she emerged in breach of provisions of law.

Speaking in an interview with Daily Sun, Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Kayode Robert Idowu, explained that there were laid down rules and regulations guiding the affairs of the parties, explaining that it was not for INEC to tell parties how to conduct their affairs or who should emerge as their candidates.

The INEC Chairman's spokesman said the extant law had set out how parties' candidates should emerge 'and if the candidate emerges through the procedures stipulated by law, INEC has no choice on the matter.'

'We have no business in this matter. INEC can only reject candidates or officials if they emerge through fraudulent means. INEC can't compel, the word 'compel' is alien to INEC; I don't even understand what compel means. INEC is not a task force.'

PDP chieftains, including Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, Chief Dubem Onyia and Alhaji Lawal Keita, had also filed a suit seeking an order stopping the INEC from accepting President Jonathan as the PDP's presidential candidate for the 2011 elections.

In the letter written by his counsel to the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, Dutsima alleged that there was already a breach of the PDP Constitution and that stance of the PDP leadership on the matter was unsatisfactory.

Meanwhile, INEC had allayed the fears that its activities so far had no legal backing just because the Electoral Act and the Constitution were being amended.

Mr. Idowu explained that the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act were still subsisting and that whatever amendments being carried out on the Act and the Constitution were just procedural matters.

'We are on course, everything we are doing is according tyo the extant law, the subsisting law. Remember even when the chairman announced the new timetable, he was quoting relevant sections of the Act and the Constitution and don't forget that the original Act which is being amended had already stipulated that elections should hold between 30 and 150 days to the day of swearing-in, which the planned April 2011 election conform with the provision.'