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By NBF News
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By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Clifford Ndujihe

LAGOS - PLANS by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct gubernatorial elections in Sokoto and Cross River State within the next two weeks were running into controversy with some stakeholders alleging a breach of the laws in the schedule announced by the commission.

While the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, alleged clear breaches to Section 34 of the Electoral Act which stipulates at least a 30-day notice for the publication of the candidates' list in the two states, the National Action Council, NAC, on its part, has flayed the commission for continuing to conducting elections without it.

As at yesterday, Vanguard learnt that the list of candidates for next weekend's gubernatorial election in Cross River State was yet to be published against the provisions of Section 34 of the Electoral Act which require that the list be published at least 30 days to the date of the election.

In Sokoto State, the list for candidates for this Saturday's election was only published last Tuesday against the requirement.

Section 34 of the Electoral Act states: 'The Commission shall at least 30 days before the days of the election publish by displaying or causing to be displayed at the relevant office or offices of the Commission and on the Commission's website, a statement of the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated.'

Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, Mr. Kayode Idowu, however, sought to downplay the issue, as he insisted that the list of candidates had been published long ago in adherent to the laws. However, INEC officials insisted the list was yet to be published.

The Sokoto State gubernatorial election is scheduled for February 18 while the Cross River poll is for February 25.

Insisting that the schedule violated the timeline provided for by the Electoral Act, the CPC in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Mr Rotimi Fasahakin. said:

'The CPC wishes to draw the attention of the Nigerian public to INEC's illegality in scheduling governorship elections in Sokoto and Cross River states for February 18 and February 25, 2012 respectively.

Our party submitted the name of its candidate for the Sokoto State governorship election on January 5, 2012, according to INEC guidelines. Based on the provision of the Electoral Act in Section 31(1), the earliest date for the governorship election to hold in Sokoto State is  March 5, 2012.

'Similarly, with the submission of the candidate for the Cross River State governorship done on February 7, 2012, the earliest date that the election can hold is April 8, 2012..

Relatedly, NAC National Chairman, Dr Olopade Agoro, picked holes in INEC's continued conduct of polls without NAC.  The commission had last year de-registered seven political parties including NAC for not participating in the elections conducted in April -May 2011 among other reasons.