Posted by Charles Iwuoha, Enugu | 30 October 2017 | 1,548 times
Controversy is brewing in Enugu State over the local government election fixed for November 4, following the mass disqualification of chairmanship and councillorship candidates of the opposition political parties by the state Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC).
Except the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), other registered opposition political parties in the state are complaining that their members had been disqualified for unexplained reasons and are demanding the postponement of the exercise.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) said that at least two of its chairmanship candidates and about 71 councillorship candidates had been disqualified in its strong holds in the state. Other opposition parties with similar complaints included the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), United Progressive Party (UPP), Labour Party (LP) and the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).
One of the opposition parties’ Chairman in the state, Dr. Ben Nwoye alleged that the PDP had targeted APC stronghold to disqualify its candidates, as against the understanding with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi that there would be level playing ground for all the political parties.
Following their candidates’ disqualification, the party has assembled a team of lawyers currently studying the situation, and would advise on the next line of action, saying that in the interim, the ENSIEC Chairman should resign for breach of the electoral law by disqualifying their candidates.
Nwoye also accused ENSIEC Chairman, Mr Mike Ajogwu (SAN) of being a card-carrying member of the PDP, adding that the ruling party in the state intimidated other opposition parties by their campaign and ability to field quality candidates across the state.
In a statement obtained by News Express in Enugu after APC’s stakeholders meeting, the party's state Publicity Secretary, Mrs Kate Ofor highlighted the areas the party's candidates were disqualified. She said that no single PDP person had been disqualified "which means that, in judgment of ENSIEC Chairman, Mr Ajogwu, they are all saints.”
Ofor, therefore, warned “that failure to reinstate our candidates before the election, APC will not only head to court, but will explore other legitimate avenues to stop this crass illegality, especially going by the extant laws that no electoral body under our constitution, ENSIEC inclusive, has the power to disqualify any candidate fielded by a political party.”
In a statement, Ogbuagu Anikwe, the Enugu State Commissioner for Information, said that the information available to the state government from ENSIEC was that the APC candidates were disqualified because they failed to provide their tax clearance certificates to the electoral body.
Anikwe dismissed the allegation by APC that Ugwuanyi had encouraged ENSIEC to disqualify its members, said the Governor had always been a man of peace and has given his word to ensure credible conduct of the local government election in the state.
Last week, a coalition of 35 political parties in the state asked ENSIEC postpone the poll without further delay or they would seek legal redress,
Chairman of Hope Democratic Party(HDP), Adonys Igwe led the parties on a protest to ENSIEC’s headquarters in the state, accusing the commission of flouting its own rules to favour the ruling PDP.
The coalition also demanded the sack of the commission’s members, accusing them of compromising their responsibilities, while dismissing the non-payment of tax, which the electoral body gave as a reason for disqualifying some of them, adding: “Only people who are working could be taxed.”
According to Igwe, “they disqualified all our candidates, including the ones in Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s area, whom we believed were capable of winning the election. They did not tell us why they did it. But we knew it was because they didn’t want any challenge.
“By this action, the commission’s members have proved that they are card-carrying members of the PDP,” hr further alleged.
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