Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, has announced his withdrawal from the planned rerun election for the Akwa Ibom North-West District, the Punch newspaper has reported.
The Court of Appeal, Calabar, in November, had ordered a rerun in only one local government area – Essien Udim – in the district, following Mr Akpabio’s appeal against the judgement of the election petition tribunal which declared that his opponent, Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was the validly elected senator for the district.
Mr Akpabio hails from Essien Udim.
Mr Akpabio, a former minority leader of the Senate, would not want to abandon his “huge responsibility” and a “critical national assignment” at the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, the Punch reported as the reason he is backing out of the election.
The paper said the minister has written to the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, requesting that the APC submit a replacement for the election.
“In line with the provisions of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) that I want to formally and voluntarily withdraw my candidature as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the forthcoming Court ordered Re-run Election for the Akwa lbom North-West Senatorial District,” the paper quoted Mr Akpabio as having said in his letter to Mr Oshiomhole.
“It will be appropriate in the circumstance and pursuant to Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) for the party to immediately communicate this withdrawal to the Independent National Electoral Commission and forward to her the name of another candidate of the party to replace me at the Court ordered Rerun Election for the Akwa lbom North-West Senatorial District,” Mr Akpabio added.
The minister also said the APC should ask the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to redeploy the resident electoral commissioner in Akwa Ibom state “if a free and transparent rerun exercise is to be guaranteed”.
The PDP, while reacting to the Court of Appeal judgement, had challenged the minister to resign his appointment and be ready for the rerun.
“It is on record that the margin of victory currently outstanding is in tens of thousands of votes, which has not been affected by the judgement of the court,” the PDP spokesperson in Akwa Ibom state, Ini Emembong, said in Uyo.