Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division Thursday night upturned the decision of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court which barred the All Progressives Congress (APC) from fielding candidates in the forthcoming general elections in Zamfara state.
Justice Abdul Aboki who led a 3 man Panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal held that the trial judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, of the Federal High Court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the suit in the first place since the suit was filed outside the 14 days required by law.
Justice Ojukwu in a Judgment delivered on January 25, affirmed the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to exclude APC’s candidates in Zamfara State from the general election on the grounds that the party in Zamfara State failed to conduct primary election for the selection of its candidates for various elective positions in the general election.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/12791/2018, Justice Ojukwu, held that INEC acted within its powers by refusing to accept the list of APC candidates for the 2019 general elections.
But the appellate court however in its Judgment Thursday set aside the Judgment Justice Ojukwu, describing it as an abuse of court process.
According to Justice Aboki, for the fact that the suit at the Federal High Court was filed 15 days after the cause of action had arisen rendered it incompetent.
The appellate court subsequently set aside the order of the lower court barring APC in Zamfara State from participating in the 2019 general elections.
Justice Ojukwu had in her Judgment held that it was not the fault of INEC that the APC failed to conduct a valid primary within the period scheduled by the electoral body.
According to her, the decision of the electoral umpire was intended to curb impunity among political parties and politicians and also ensure that they abide by the rule of law in their conduct.
The suit was filed by some APC members, who said they emerged from a consensus arrangement adopted by the party in Zamfara State.
INEC had in September 2018 barred APC from fielding candidates for the elections over ‘failure to hold credible primary elections’.
In a letter to the APC leadership, INEC had said, “Based on the provision of Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidate from Zamfara State.
“For clarity, our position, therefore, is that the APC will not be fielding candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and state Assembly elections.”
National chairman of the APC Adams Oshiomhole, thereafter, accused INEC of bias.
But, a state High Court sitting in Gusau, in October, issued an interim order restraining INEC from disqualifying the APC from fielding candidates for the 2019 elections.