The Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission has reversed the disqualification of some All Progressives Congress’ candidates who were barred from participating in the November 4, 2017 local council elections over issues bordering on tax payment.
This emerged on Tuesday at a meeting between the management of ENSIEC and leaders of the APC and other opposition political parties that are billed to take part in the polls.
The meeting, which held at the ENSIEC office in Enugu, was attended by most of the APC candidates.
However, the APC candidates who were disqualified for not appearing before ENSIEC for screening, as well as those who were barred from the polls for not having permanent voter cards, were not given the nod to participate in the election.
ENSIEC had initially disqualified 73 APC candidates – 71 councillorship hopefuls and two chairmanship aspirants.
The APC had alleged that majority of the disqualified candidates were drawn from areas where it had ‘comparative advantage’ over the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the polls.
Reacting to the partial reversal of the disqualifications, after the meeting between ENSIEC and the opposition political parties, the chairman of the APC in Enugu State, Dr. Ben Nwoye, insisted that the electoral body lacked the authority to disqualify candidates.
Addressing journalists, he said, “I maintain that ENSIEC has no powers to disqualify candidates under the law. One of the areas, over which we still disagree with ENSIEC, is that anybody who fails to show up for their screening will be disqualified, unless the person has a cogent reason.
“ENSIEC admitted that matters such as tax should be for the tribunal, that if you are elected and didn’t pay your tax, your opponent can challenge you and destroy your victory but the commission went ahead to say that you can be disqualified if you fail to appear before some commissioners who have appropriated to themselves the power to screen candidates.
“We still disagree with them totally – ENSIEC has no authority to disqualify candidates under any grounds.”
Nwoye equally faulted ENSIEC for disqualifying the APC candidates on the grounds of lack of permanent voter cards.
He noted that most of the PDP candidates also lacked PVCs, but were not disqualified.
Nwoye said, “Many of the PDP candidates are new voters who have temporary voter cards but they (ENSIEC) did not disqualify them.”
The Enugu APC chairman noted that the ENSIEC chairman, Mike Ajogwu, SAN, was ‘under pressure’ over the local council polls.
“I am sure that he is under pressure, it is not the same Dr. Ajogwu, SAN, that we all know that is acting. There are some other forces that are pressuring him to do things you cannot do under the law.
“If indeed, ENSIEC was honest with the reasons for disqualification; it should have made those reasons known from the onset.
“I believe that these are made-up reasons – these are reasons they made up after they woke up and realised that these gentlemen (the APC candidates) are not backing down, that they want to serve their people.
“They (ENSIEC) have backed down on the tax issue but are still holding on to disqualification on made-up issues.
“You don’t target those places that the PDP cannot win and disqualify opponents,” Nwoye said.