Malami Denies Directing INEC to Postpone Zamfara Elections

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Abubakar Malami
Abubakar Malami
  • INEC confirms receipt of directive
  • PDP, Agbakoba, Ozekhome, Falana kick

Adedayo Akinwale and Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has denied media reports that he wrote a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), requesting INEC to postpone the general election in Zamfara State.

But the electoral body disclosed last night that it had received the letter written by Malami, demanding a postponement of elections in the state.

Notwithstanding the denial, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday rejected the directive by Malami to INEC to postpone elections in the state to enable the All Progressives Congress (APC) field candidates, saying the directive was not backed by law.

The attorney general also drew the ire of former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), and a constitutional law expert, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who also condemned the letter and advised INEC not to take orders from him.

But Malami, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Salihu Isah, described the reports that he asked INEC to postpone the elections in Zamfara State as false and misleading.

According to the statement, the AGF noted that all he did was to draw the attention of the commission to the need to consider a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal in favour of the APC.

The statement titled, ‘AGF letter to INEC dated February, 13, 2019 – A Clarification,’ read: “The attention of the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to a recent publication by certain social media and conventional news outlets stating that this office had purportedly requested INEC to postpone the elections in Zamfara State. The Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation wishes to emphatically reiterate that this report is false and misleading.

“In our letter dated 13th February 2019 addressed to the INEC Chairman, the AGF in reacting to a petition from M.A Mahmud informing this office of the subsisting Court of Appeal decision in CA/S/22/2019, which effectively upheld the APC primaries in Zamfara State, wrote to INEC informing them of this development and requested the commission to comply by extending the time within which the political party may field its candidate in the gubernatorial elections.”

Malami pointed out that the constraining circumstances that led to the delay in fielding a candidate were caused by INEC’s refusal to comply with the Zamfara State High Court judgment, which upheld the said APC’s primaries.

He said INEC had relied on a Federal High Court judgment, which nullified the primaries, whereas the Court of Appeal’s decision in reference has now effectively overturned this decision and upheld the said APC primaries.

In supporting his position, the AGF made reference to the provisions of sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010, which allows INEC the latitude and discretion to extend the time within which a political party may duly field a candidate for an election where unforeseen circumstances constrained such a party from doing so within the stipulated time frame.

He said: “It is, therefore, our position that shutting a candidate out of the elections despite a subsisting Court of Appeal’s decision mandating otherwise would lead to a miscarriage of justice and certainly not in the interest of giving all parties in Zamfara State a level playing field. Our letter to INEC is, therefore, in line with the subsisting Court of Appeal’s decision as well as Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010.

“It is at this point mandatory to reiterate that the issue for contention by the parties before the trial and appellate court were in no way and by no stretch of imagination extend to the presidential election, which at any rate was not an issue contemplated for determination by the trial and appellate court.

“It is, therefore, obvious that what the insinuations in the social media and some conventional news outlets set out to achieve on the strength of this issue is to confuse the electorate and Nigerians at large and/or to portray the ruling government as insensitive to the electoral process.”

Malami urged the public to note that his office would not in any way interfere with INEC’s mandate to conduct free and fair elections and is fully in support of ensuring that justice is done to all the parties in this circumstance.

INEC Confirms Receipt of Directive to Postpone Zamfara Elections

Meanwhile, INEC has confirmed that it received a letter from the Malami, directing it to postpone elections in Zamfara State.

A human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has however, advised the electoral body to ignore Malami.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, said the commission has received the letter but was yet to take any decision aside the line it took before on the issue.

According to him, “The commission has received the letter from the AGF. The commission is studying the letter and the accompanying attachments. The commission will make its position known as soon as possible.”

But Falana advised the electoral body to ignore Malami.

According to a statement issued last night, the senior lawyer argued that by virtue of section 158 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, INEC “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any authority or person.”

Falana added that the proviso to Section 160 of the amended Constitution states that the powers of INEC “to make its own rules or otherwise regulate its own procedures shall not be subject to the approval or control of the president.”

He argued: “Therefore, the AGF lacks the vires to advise or direct INEC to postpone the elections scheduled to hold in any state of the federation. Since the judgment of the Court of Appeal on the nomination of APC candidates in Zamfara State admits of no ambiguity, INEC is advised to do the needful and ignore the directive of the AGF on the conduct of the elections.

PDP Rejects AGF’s Letter

The PDP has also rejected the purported directive given by Malami to INEC to postpone elections in the state to enable the APC field candidates for the 2019 elections, saying the directive was not backed by law.

The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, stated this yesterday while addressing a world press conference titled: “Letter to the Nation” in Abuja, noting that the directive of the AGF was aimed at arm twisting the electoral body.

According to Secondus, “The AGF letter is part of APC’s design to arm-twist INEC and the judiciary to take illegal action in their favour. What the AGF is seeking is not backed by law. The AGF is an interested party in this matter and has no moral right to advise INEC.”

Secondus also stressed that the voter register of INEC contains the data of dead voters, adding that the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for dead voters were printed and distributed nationwide.

He stated: “Fellow citizens, government data shows that the gross death rate in Nigeria is 12.5 per 1000 lives. We have evidence that over 1,050,051 dead voters will vote in this election.

“The decision that dead voters will cast ballots has been taken by INEC and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The idea of ghost voters is consistent with the nature of this virtual President.”

Secondus noted that the inability of the APC to field candidates was due to self-inflicted crisis.

To this end the PDP chairman called on INEC to follow the dictates of the law and continue in its plan to achieve credible elections.

He added that this election more than any other provides an opportunity for Nigeria to get on the right path.

“The challenge that we now face is one of expectations. Those entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the expression of the people’s will is made manifest, have time and again failed to demonstrate good faith. We expect better than we are getting,” he said.

The PDP chairman said multiple intelligence sources available to PDP show that APC, in conjunction with INEC through their ICT situation room, have concluded plans to manipulate the outcome of Saturday’s election.

He accused APC of deliberately corrupting the INEC voter register to induce voters’ suppression in PDP’s strong hold operations areas with the aim of disenfranchising at least four voters through corrupting of their four names on the voters register.

He claimed: “The strategy is to create artificial problems wherein at least four registered voters can be disfranchised in PDP strong hold areas. The target is to adequately limit the estimated members of PDP who would want to vote in their areas.

“There is deliberate ploy to disrupt internet services and jam cell tower coverage ostensibly to prevent Nigerians from covering the elections via social media.

“There is also confirmed intelligence showing that critical PDP players in this election are to be earmarked, arrested and quarantined to a particular location to give way for the elections to be rigged.

INEC Can’t Take Orders from FG, Agbakoba, Ozekhome Insist

In a related development, Agbakoba and Ozekhome have condemned AGF’s letter and advised INEC not to take orders from Malami.

Agbakoba said the commission is an independent and neutral body, which cannot take orders from the federal government.

He said it was only the APC that could make such a request from the electoral body.

He also reminded Malami that Buhari had promised non-interference in the activities of INEC.

In a letter dated February 14, the senior lawyer asked Malami to withdraw his letter, which according to him, undermines the president’s commitment.

“I am shocked by your letter to the INEC on the above subject. You are the Attorney General of the Federation and not the Attorney General of INEC,” Agbakoba said, adding: “INEC is an independent institution and cannot take directives from the federal government. If there is need for the postponement of the Zamfara State elections as indicated in your letter, the proper person to request the postponement is the APC.”

He added: “In any case, Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act 2010, which your request is based on, have nothing to do with postponement of elections.

“President Buhari has at various fora undertaken that the federal government will not interfere with INEC. Your letter puts that commitment to question.

“It is my hope that this letter will be immediately withdrawn.”

Agbakoba also wrote to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, asking him to disregard Malami’s letter.

He said: “INEC is an independent institution and should not take directives from the Attorney General of the Federation or the federal government.

“If there is need for the postponement of the Zamfara State elections, the proper person to request the postponement is the APC.

“In any case, Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which the Attorney General’s request is based on have nothing to do with postponement of elections.

“INEC should disregard the Attorney General’s letter.”

Also speaking to journalists yesterday in Abuja, Ozekhome said he felt saddened that the AGF could take a decision to jeopardise the interest of over 70 political parties in Zamfara State because his party, APC, has no candidate in the elections.

The senior lawyer, however, urged INEC not to be intimidated but remain resolute in his stand to exclude APC’s candidates in the state on account that the party did not hold any valid primary election.