• Appeal Court paves the way for party to field candidates

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Court of Appeal in Abuja Thursday set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which affirmed the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to bar the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from fielding candidates in the general election in Zamfara State.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, had in a judgment delivered on January 25, 2019, held that INEC was right to have delisted the names of candidates APC presented for the elections.

She stated that the APC failed to conduct a valid primary within the period scheduled by the electoral body.
But three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, held that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to have entertained the suit, adding that it was an abuse of court process.

He stressed that the suit at the Federal High Court was filed out of time and that the Electoral Act provides for 14 days to institute a suit after the cause of action had arisen, the suit was filed 15 days after, and therefore rendered the action incompetent.

After listening to the arguments of M. A. Maagaji SAN, who lead other senior lawyers, the court held: “The cross-appeal partly succeeds on the issue of jurisdiction. The suit of the 1st cross-respondent in suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018 between the All Progressives Congress vs Independent National Electoral Commission and Others is hereby struck out for lack or want of jurisdiction on the part of the lower court.

“The judgment of the lower court is hereby set aside. There shall be no order as to costs.”
On many occasions INEC had insisted that the APC Zamfara State would not field candidates for the 2019 general election.

In a leaked memo, the commission informed the ruling APC that it would not be allowed to field candidates for elective positions in Zamfara in the 2019 elections.

Its acting Secretary, Mr. Okechukwe Ndeche, in a letter to the APC said that the party was barred from fielding candidates for governorship, National Assembly and state assembly elections.

The commission said this was because APC failed to comply with Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act of 2010.
Parties, according to the Act, were expected to comply with the timetable and schedule of INEC, which says that the conduct of primaries must be held between August 18 and October 7.

INEC said it received reports from its Zamfara office indicating that no primaries were conducted in the state, “notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilised and deployed.”

The APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, later responded to INEC in a statement and said that the party had already arrived at a consensus before the deadline.

Oshiomhole said that following the high level of friction, disagreements and threats of violence by various political camps before the primaries, all the aspirants met at City King Hotel, Gusau, to find a truce.
He said: “After hours of intense horse-trading, a consensus was reached within the spirit and context of the Electoral Act and the constitution of our party.

“This was done in strict compliance with Section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).”
He said that the claim by INEC that no primaries were conducted could only be referring to its officials’ observation that actual voting did not take place.

The APC chairman said that conduct of primaries was not the only mode prescribed for producing candidates in the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

“We, therefore, affirm that indeed, primaries took place in Zamfara State,” Oshiomhole said.
The party chairman also noted that PDP had similar issues in Kano State and wondered why INEC did not bar the opposition party from fielding candidates.