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INEC finally stops Atiku, 2 others from presidential contest

Posted by By FRANCIS AWOWOLE-BROWNE, JACOB EDI, Abuja and NANA AHMADU, Lagos on 2007/03/16 | Views: 2272 |

INEC finally stops Atiku, 2 others from presidential contest


Hopes of a reprieve from the court for the Action Congress (AC) presidential candidate, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar to contest the April 21 presidential election appeared effectively sealed yesterday as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu released a list of 21 cleared presidential candidates without the Vice-Presidentís name, with a declaration that no court decision could compel it to accommodate the embattled candidate and others in his situation for the forthcoming elections.

Hopes of a reprieve from the court for the Action Congress (AC) presidential candidate, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar to contest the April 21 presidential election appeared effectively sealed yesterday as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu released a list of 21 cleared presidential candidates without the Vice-Presidentís name, with a declaration that no court decision could compel it to accommodate the embattled candidate and others in his situation for the forthcoming elections.

A battle line, however, appeared drawn as Atiku who returned to the country on Thursday from the United Kingdom where he underwent a knee surgery vowed that INEC would not stop him from contesting the presidential election.

The vice president has also dragged the electoral body and its chairman to the Federal High Court Abuja where he is praying the court to quash his purported disqualification.

The Action Congress (AC), Lagos Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and an Atiku group, Atiku Consensus Movement (ACM) declared that their presidential standard bearerís disqualification would not stand, warning that they could no longer guarantee that AC supporters "will take things in their stride without venting their anger."

INEC chairman said while releasing the list that the commission was taking this action bearing in mind that it is being guided by the Constitution and the Electoral Act and therefore had no apology, since the aim is to deliver a transparent, free and fair election in line with constitutional provisions.
Also released were names of cleared party candidates for the Senatorial and House of Representatives election.
Going by the list, three presidential candidates were not cleared as 27 parties were said to have fielded candidates for verification and clearance by the commission.

In a sharp move that contradicted its earlier stand that only the courts could validate the eligibility of the Vice-President and others indicted in the government white paper, Professor Iwu maintained with emphasis that his commission would rather appeal than obey any court ruling bordering on substitution or clearing of candidate to contest election, so as not to cause distraction and scuttle the election.
Pointing out that the constitution itself did not give room for the postponement of elections, Prof. Iwu said "to avoid further distractions from our strategic plan, the commission as a policy has resolved to contest every court decision rendered after the time limit set by the Electoral Act for substitution of candidates."
To seek redress, the INEC Chairman advised any aggrieved candidates to wait till after the election saying, "After the election, parties may either continue the case in the regular courts or proceed to the election tribunals."
Rationalising the commissionís position, Prof. Iwu argued: "If INEC accedes to court judgments seeking to change candidates now, fundamental logistical problems would be created. And this may affect the ultimate efficiency and success of the elections."

In reaction to whatever public criticism that might trail the decisions, the INEC boss stressed that the commission would not allow itself to be stampeded, noting that the commission and its officials were quite aware that they could not win popularity contest in the matters of the electoral process and were therefore "not apologetic."

He insisted that INEC had set out in its preparations for the 2007 elections with an uncompromising determination to rise above the laxities and shoddiness, which characterized elections in the country in the past.

"In many instances, those laxities and shoddiness were not primarily the fault of the Electoral Commission. They were essentially reflections of indiscipline in the political system which amply manifested in rather costly leeway allowed individuals and groups to treat the laws of the land as something to be adhered to when and however they liked."

Therefore, Prof. Iwu stated that his commission from the outset in the journey towards the 2007 general elections, was determined to stem the tide of indiscipline and contempt for the laws of the land.

"We therefore came out with clear outline of the necessary deadlines and time lines of activities pertaining to the elections. More importantly, the commission commits itself to ensuring that all relevant rules are fully complied with and that deadlines are diligently adhered to in the march towards the election. We are convinced that our political system can only develop properly in such a regime of orderliness and obedience to the laws of the land," he said.

Prof. Iwu, however, lamented that the efforts by the commission to raise both a new foundation and new sustainable standards of the conduct for the electoral process has expectedly run into some storm. "In an environment where various entrenched self-serving interests, corrupt tendencies and cynical mindset have held sway for long, the determination by the commission to do the right thing has been seen by those who have been holding political system hostage as an affront."

He made allusion to the case filed by the AC over the eligibility of the Vice-President, adding that though many interpretations have been given the court ruling, yet his commission had been vindicated by the judgment, while quoting copiously from the sections of the constitution, bordering on eligibility and cases under which candidates could be ineligible and the positions which INEC had been maintaining to defend itself.

The INEC boss drew attention to the section relating to cases where appeal could be made, pointing out that it clearly did not include indictment of candidates. According to him, it was in this wise that the list released by his commission did not contain the names of candidates who have not met the constitutional requirements, specifically sections 65 and 66 for members of the National Assembly and Sections 131 and 137 for the office of the President.

The INEC cautioned the political parties against violating electoral laws especially as relates to the limit of spending, warning that the commission was watching and noting the activities of the parties during campaigns. "We know the cost of the advertisements in the media, we know how much it costs to hire helicopters and aeroplanes, we know the cost of Toyota buses, we are watching."

Reacting to his disqualification, Vice President Atiku Abubakar declared that it would not prevent him from participating in the April polls.
Similarly, the AC has said it could no longer guarantee that its supporters "will take things in their stride without venting their anger."

"I will go up to the Supreme Court to challenge this. And if the court says am wrongfully disallowed, then any election held will not stand," Atiku declared at a news conference in his Asokoro private residence.
Atiku who arrived the country Thursday after three days in the United Kingdom where he underwent a knee surgery, however, said he was not surprised at his disqualification by INEC.

AC National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, who also spoke at the press conference informed that the party had already written to the governments of France, US, UK, ECOWAS, UN, AU and South Africa to compel the Federal Government to obey court rulings in respect of Atiku and next monthís election.

"Any threat to peace in Nigeria, therefore constitutes a threat to peace in West Africa, Africa and the world," Akande said.
He accused President Obasanjo of making peace elsewhere and embarking on actions that could plunge his country into crisis.

Akande also accused INEC and the presidency of conspiracy to disqualify Atiku. While insisting that Atiku will continue his presidential campaign rally after his full recovery, the AC chairman said: "There is no legal impediment and he will definitely contest the April Presidential elections."
He also described INECís action as reckless and arbitrary, arguing that even the Bayo Ojo panel that the commission relied upon to take its decision had been nullified in its entirety by several judicial pronouncements.

"We also recall that the judgment of Justice B. O. Kuewumi is clear and unambiguous. It says that INEC has no power under the constitution or the Electoral Act to disqualify any candidate. Moreover S. 137 (1) of the constitution that INEC is relying upon is not self executory, it must be involved in court and the court must pronounce on it, one way or the other ," Chief Akande emphasized.

"We wish to further remind Iwu that whatever might be the immediate rewards of partisanship in a supposedly independent commission, the burden of history and the judgment of God will weigh so heavily on his soul and spirit, he will suffer more agony than any chairman before him. For him it will be far worse because he is such a willing accomplice in the evil happenings," Akande swore.

The Action Congress, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohamad described Atikuís purported disqualification as "a temoporary distraction at best, and an irritant at worst," adding, "our candidate will definitely contest the April presidential election."
Describing the INECís action as illegal and unconstitutional, the party said it wasnít surprised that Atiku was purportedly disqualified because "it was an agenda that has long been pushed by INECís paymasters."

The statement further reads: "As it is customary for us as firm believers in the rule of law, we have since gone back to court to compel INEC to restore our candidateís name on the list of candidates eligible to contest the presidential polls, as there is no basis to disqualify him.
"However, we are astonished that Prof. Maurice Iwu and his puppeteers are not students of history, otherwise they would have remembered that Cote díIvoire, until a few years back, was the most politically stable and the most prosperous country in Africa.

"That was until one man called Alhassan Quattara was unlawfully precluded from contesting presidential election in that country. Cote díIvoire is yet to recover from that crisis.
"We sincerely hope that Iwu and his paymasters do not want to plunge Nigeria into a similar crisis."
In his reaction, Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, urged all Nigerians to disregard the INEC list,saying Atiku still remained ACís presidential candidate.

According to him,the PDP led Federal Government had been influencing INEC to disqualify the AC presidential candidate at all cost adding, "nobody can disqualify Atiku from contesting the election, not even INEC can disqualify him."

Addressing the mammoth crowd that trooped out to attend yesterdayís AC rally at Ibeju-Lekki, Tinubu urged the party faithfuls to remain steadfast and continue to work for the success of the party at the polls, adding that they were fortunate to be in the same political party with Turaki Adamawa, Vice President Abubakar.

Also reacting to the INEC list, a group promoting Atiku Abubakarís presidency, Atiku Consensus Movement warned that it might go to court to stop the presidential election.
Coordinator of the Movement, Mr. Tony Nwachukwu in a statement said the disqualification was fraudulent and could not be allowed to stand.

"There is no gainsaying the fact that INEC had stepped on the cobraís tail and nobody should hold the Vice-President responsible for whatever happens to the electoral process. "We have always been toeing the path of rule of law and we will not deviate from it, until justice is done in this case," the group said.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.