The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) admitted on Friday that it allowed underage candidates to contest the 2019 general elections.
INEC made the admission as it justified its current stance to declare some candidates ineligible to contest the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states for reasons of either the candidates or their running mates being underage.
Findings revealed that eight nominations were declared invalid in Kogi State for the November 16 election while six suffered similar fate in Bayelsa State.
Further checks revealed that the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Kogi State, Natasha Akpoti, had her nomination declared invalid as her running mate, Khalid Ogbeche, was declared underage and consequently ineligible to contest.
Akpoti has since alleged that her nomination was axed by INEC to ensure victory for the incumbent governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Yahaya Bello.
Candidates disqualified in Kogi State had alleged that INEC allowed underage persons to contest the 2019 general elections and wondered why it was moving against them now.
But INEC, in a statement, on Friday, signed by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said it had alerted political parties prior to the conduct of the 2019 general elections that it would no longer allow parties to field underage candidates for elective offices since it was a breach of the nation’s constitution.
“Members of the public may recall that just before the 2019 general elections, the commission had cause to draw the attention of political parties to the same problem of nominating underage candidates. That communication was a notice to the parties that future violation of such a basic provision of the constitution would be unacceptable and could lead to severe consequences.
“Accordingly, the commission has informed the affected parties that their names and logos will not appear on the ballots for the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections due to the invalidity of their nominations,” the commission said.
The electoral body noted that the parties affected by its decision to axe candidates were earlier notified that their candidates were ineligible to contest and further argued that their moves to submit fresh nominations were rebuffed as they could not meet up with the deadline for submission of nominations.