Zamfara APC crisis: INEC to allow party’s participation in general elections
• Status Quo Remains, Says Ozekhome
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has obeyed the court order to allow the All Progressives Congress (APC) participate in today’s Presidential and National Assembly polls, as well as the March 9 Governorship and state House of Assembly elections, following the Thursday, February 21 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division.
In a statement in Abuja yesterday, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the commission has consistently maintained that it would always obey court judgments and orders.
The Federal High Court in Abuja and Zamfara State High Court issued conflicting orders relating to the participation of the party in the two elections rescheduled for today and March 9.
While the former ruled that the APC, having failed to conduct party primaries, could not field candidates in the elections, the latter decided that it could field candidates, having conducted valid party primaries.
However, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Thursday, February 21, set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja for “lack or want of jurisdiction on the part of the lower court.”
This, in effect is seen in some quarters as meaning that the Zamfara State High Court‘s decision that the party can field candidates for the National Assembly, as well as Governorship and State Assembly elections is the only valid and subsisting order.
Consequently, INEC, in compliance with the said order, yesterday restored the APC to the ballot for the National Assembly, as well as Governorship and state House of Assembly elections scheduled for today and March 9, respectively.
But Counsel to Marafa’s faction, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, held that the Court of Appeal only dismissed the appeal filed by APC challenging the judgment of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, which affirmed INEC’s stand that the APC did not conduct any primary elections in the state and that INEC was right to have rejected APC candidates from the state, following an application by APC to withdraw the appeal.
Ozekhome said the appellate court clearly stated that the appeal filed by Yari and his faction succeeded only on jurisdiction and that the court refused to grant the cause of action component of the appeal.
“The application was granted and the appeal dismissed accordingly. Next was the cross appeal filed by Yari and his group on jurisdiction and cause of action.
“The judgment given by the court of appeal clearly stated that the appeal partially succeeded and went ahead to set aside the judgment of the lower court on jurisdiction only, but refused to grant the cause of action component of the appeal.
“By this, the court of appeal refused to grant INEC any order to revive candidates of the APC from Zamfara State.
“The cross appeal, therefore, partially failed because, from the onset, APC had a complaint against INEC only. Yari had applied to join the case voluntarily and Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in her judgment, held that APC did not seek any reliefs against the second to sixth defendants- Yari and co.
“Therefore, considering the fact that Yari and co did not file any counter-claim or cross appeal against the APC’s suit, Justice Ojukwu had gone ahead to hold that Yari and co ‘have nothing to add to this case.’
Ozekhome was reacting to the news making round that the Court of Appeal had cleared the way for APC to participate in today’s elections, describing it as a lie, saying it was nothing short of the desperate manoeuvers by frustrated politician holding on any available straw to smuggle themselves into the election.
“INEC is hereby reminded that there exists in addition to the above legal obstacles, a subsisting appeal, which arose from the Zamfara State High Court judgment, which is still extant and pending before the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No: CA/S/32/2019.
“In any event, the judgment of the Federal High Court, going by the judgment of the Court of Appeal, still partially succeeded, since the Court of Appeal refused to make any clear mandatory orders directing INEC to receive any candidates from Yari’s group for the purpose of Saturday’s elections.
“INEC is, therefore, obligated and legally bound to stand by its earlier well-founded position that APC, having never conducted any primaries in Zamfara State, have no candidates in the elections in Zamfara state, except the presidential election.
“Any other act by INEC in fielding any candidates from the Yari group will be illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”
While the suit in Zamfara was filled by the faction backed by the state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, that of the court in Abuja was instituted by the faction loyal to Senator Kabir Marafa, representing Zamfara Central.
Yari had last week warned INEC that the general elections might not hold in the state if names of the APC candidates were not on the ballot, insisting: “There is no way elections will be conducted in Zamfara State without APC candidates.”
The governor, who is a senatorial candidate, said it would be a huge mistake and threat to national security for INEC to bar Zamfara APC candidates from contesting during the elections in the state.
But Marafa backed INEC’s earlier stand that his party had no candidates in the elections, saying: “Asking INEC to recognise the list of candidates presented to it from Zamfara State by the APC is just like a call on somebody to kill themselves.”
With INEC’s decision, Marafa and his faction appears to have lost out in the power game, unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise. He might not be returning to the senate, as he is not one of the candidates listed.
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