By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that it collected the list of candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State because there was no court order or judgment barring it from doing so.
The Supreme Court had on October 22, 2018, descended on the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal for granting an application in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in respect of the conduct of the party’s congresses in the state.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, in its unanimous judgment, held that the Court of Appeal committed “a sacrilegious exercise of discretion” by favouring the APC in its June 21, 2018, judgment despite the party’s decision to conduct its congresses in Rivers State in disobedience of subsisting orders of the court.
The Supreme Court faulted the action of the APC, and described the conduct of the party’s ward, local government and state congresses of May 19, 20 and 21, 2018, respectively, in Rivers State, in violation of a pending court order as “condemnable, egregious and preposterous.”
The five-man panel of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, upheld the appeal filed against the APC by 23 aggrieved members of the party in Rivers State.
But while speaking with THISDAY on the phone yesterday, INEC National Commissioner on Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, said as at the time APC submitted the list, INEC has not been served any court order or any judgment barring the party from submitting the list.
According to him, “The APC conducted party primary in the state and the party primary election was monitored by INEC, and at the end of the day, the National Chairman of APC and the National Secretary forwarded the list of candidates that emerged from the primary election to INEC, and INEC collected the list as submitted by the national chairman and secretary of the APC.”
Okoye added that “on the date of submission of the list, there was no order from any court of law served on INEC to the effect that the electoral body should not collect the list of candidates from Rivers State.”
He said what INEC has done is what the law says in terms of political party submitting the list of their candidates.
Okoye stressed that in the next few days, INEC would publish the list of candidates for governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the various constituencies in accordance with the law.
He stated: “When the affidavit is published in all their constituencies, any individual or group that has issues has the constitutional right to go to court to challenge issues arising from the primaries.”
However, the electoral body has once again rejected the list of candidates from Ogun State submitted to it by the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while acknowledging that of the state chapter of the party loyal to Senator Buruji Kasamu.
Though the electoral body had in a letter written to the party on October 25, 2018, and received on October 30, 2018, notified the PDP of its decision to publish the lists of candidates submitted by the Adebayo Dayo-led State Executive Committee of Ogun State PDP in pursuant to the orders until it is set aside.
The Federal High Court in Abeokuta had on October 2, 2018, in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CFS/636/2016, of Adebayo Dayo (state chairman) and eight others versus INEC and three others, ordered the commission to recognise Dayo-led State Executive Committee of PDP in Ogun State, and receive the list of candidates for the 2019 governorship, National Assembly and state House of Assembly elections from the said committee.
Okoye said based on the subsisting court orders that have not been vacated, the commission collected the list of candidates that emanated from the Ogun State chapter of the PDP.
He stated: “This has nothing to do with our processes and procedures. We had told the political parties from the beginning that we will only collect the list of candidate signed by the national chairman and the national secretary of the political party which remains the policy of the commission.
“But if any court of law directs otherwise, we will definitely do as the court directs. So, from Ogun State, we have subsisting court orders and court judgement, and we should collect the list of candidates emanating from the political party in Ogun State.
“We have collected the list emanating from the political party in Ogun State as against that of the PDP at the national level based on the court order directing us on the list to collect. That’s the position of the commission presently.
On Zamfara State, Okoye said the position of the electoral body remains the same- the party (APC) primary did not take place in the state.
According to him, “Based on the fact that the party primary did not take place in Zamfara State, we are not going to collect any list of candidate emanating from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in relation to the state election.”
He stated categorically that the commission did not collect any list of candidate in relation to senatorial election from the state.
Okoye said: “The commission did not collect any list of candidate in relation to governorship and state House of Assembly elections from the state. So, the commission maintained its position that party primary election did not take place in Zamfara State, and that remains the commission’s position.
“But the commission is aware that there are two suits in relation to the party primary election ongoing presently. If at the end of the day, the court directs that we must collect a list of candidates from the state, we will submit to the rule of law and due process and accept such a list.”