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Condemnation dogs plot to substitute candidates in Rivers

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Despite the closure of the window for change of governorship and other state candidates on December 2, critical stakeholders have raised the alarm over alleged surreptitious plot to substitute the Rivers State candidates of Accord Party (AP).

The move, if effected, would see candidates that had lost out in other parties flying the AP flag.

“The integrity and impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be seriously called to question, if this is allowed to happen,” said a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, James Umeh.

“Nobody should try that nonsense, if they don’t want trouble in this state. Once the window for substitutions are closed, it should remain closed.”

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A Young Progressive Party (YPP) member, who simply gave his name as Tamunoebi, said he learnt of the alleged plot by INEC to give AP the green light to substitute candidates any time soon.

“This is dangerous for our democracy. Our country should be a nation that abides by the rule of law, not manipulation of the processes by powerful individuals, using government apparatuses. We hope that what we are hearing is just rumours.”

According to a legal practitioner, Cletus Isokari, the breach of process or guideline could lead to litigation, which is an unnecessary distraction to INEC at this point when elections are knocking fast at the door.

“They don’t need this distraction. If the window for substitution is closed, why re-open it through the backdoor? No, it should never be allowed,” he said.

However, speaking on the issue, INEC commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, dismissed the report.

He claimed to be unaware of a request for substitution of candidates from AP or any party in Rivers before the commission.

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Okoye said: “I am not sure that any request for substitution of candidate has come to INEC. Our window for substitution has closed. We are a law-abiding institution. We will not flout the law regarding that. We can only allow substitution in the case of death of a candidate.”

The national commissioner pledged that INEC would not bend the rule for any party or politician.

The state government has, however, cautioned INEC against taking a step that would erode whatever is left of its integrity in the state.

Commissioner for Information, Emma Okah, said that substitution of a candidate of any party when the window for that had elapsed “is the height of abuse of the electoral law.”

For him, the allegation cannot be easily dismissed because there can be no smoke without fire.

The date for substitution of candidates for governorship and other state positions expired on December 2, and INEC has repeatedly said it would not shift the date.


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