Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suspended the presentation of Certificates of Return to the governor, deputy governor and State House of Assembly members-elect on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State.
The commission also added that the judgement of the Court of Appeal would also impact the Certificates of Returns already issued to the senators and House of Representatives members-elect from the state.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto had on Monday set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court, allowing the APC to field candidates in the 2019 election.
A Zamfara High court had recognised the primary election that produced governorship, state and National Assembly candidates held by the APC faction loyal to Governor Abdulaziz Yari and ordered INEC to accept the party’s candidates for the elections.
But dissatisfied with the ruling, the appellants, led by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa, and 129 others, approached the appeal court, challenging the decision on the ground that the state high court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit among others.
Delivering the lead judgment, which was adopted by two other judges, Tijjani Abubakar and Jamilu Tukur, Justice Tom Yakubu, held that the lower court failed in its duty to properly evaluate the evidence before it.
Yakubu said judges have the legal power to produce judgment and reach decisions with reason, noting that in the instant case it was not done.
He held: “I am convinced that the lower court has failed to evaluate the evidence before reaching the decision. The appeal court has power in law to access pieces of evidence on appeal, which we have done.
”Based on available facts the respondents did not contradict the INEC evidence on conducting the said primary election.”
Yakubu added that federal, states and FCT high courts have jurisdiction to entertain such matter.
The judges agreed that the judgment should serve as “bitter lesson” for political parties as they ought to follow legitimate guidelines and rules.
The judges added: “Domestic affairs of political party activities must act within the confines of the law in dealing with party members and elections.”
But the electoral body yesterday twitted from its verified Twitter handle that, “INEC has been served with the judgment of the Court of Appeal Sokoto concerning the sponsoring of candidates by the APC in Zamfara and is studying same. Consequently, the presentation of Certificates of Return for the Zamfara Governorship and State House of Assembly scheduled for Wednesday 27th March 2019 has been suspended.”
Also, INEC National Commissioner, Mr. Festus Okoye, told THISDAY yesterday that the commission has been consistent and would remain consistent in obedience to the orders of court.
He insisted that the commission would not issue Certificates of Return to the governor and deputy governor-elect from Zamfara State, as well as state assembly members-elect.
Okoye stated: “The decision of the commission is predicated on the judgement of the Court of Appeal Sokoto judicial division. The commission will continue to obey the orders of court and will take a definitive position in the next few days.”
Asked if the commission will withdraw the Certificates of Return already given to the senators and House of Representatives members-elect, Okoye stated categorically that, “the 9th National Assembly has not been inaugurated. The import and implications of the judgement will determine the fate of the certificates already issued.”