S’Court to Hear Zamfara APC Suit May 16

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned till May 16, 2019, to commence hearing in the appeals filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State.

The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, who presided over the appeal filed by the governor-elect of Zamfara State, Alhaji Mukhtar Idris and others against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, fixed the date for hearing after listening to submissions of the counsel in the suit.

Muhammad however assured them that the apex court will do everything within its powers to decide the case one way or the other before the court goes on its annual vacation in July this year.

The governor-elect and a faction of the APC in Zamfara, who contested in the 2019 general election, had approached the apex court to set aside the decision of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal which had nullified the primaries that produced them as candidates for the last general election in the state at all levels.

The lower court in its judgment held that due process was not followed in the conduct of the primaries.

But not satisfied with the decision of the court, the governor-elect approached the apex court to challenge it.

When the matter came up Thursday, Senator Kabiru Marafa’s counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who led other respondents in the appeal, sought to move a preliminary objection dated April 30, 2019.

Ozekhome told the court that in the face of the law, there is no appeal before the court.

He was about arguing his objection when Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) objected and told the court to order that the objection and the brief of arguments of parties in the matter should be taken together.

He cited order 6 rule 5 of the civil procedure rules of the court.

He reminded the court that the practice that had been adopted in so many cases before the court has been to take the objection and the brief of arguments together in order to have one judgment.

Fagbemi said that this is so because if Ozekhome’s objection succeeds, the case will terminate at the preliminary objection stage but if it fails, the court will look into the merit of the case.

After the parties made their submissions, the court agreed that the case should be fixed for May 16th, 2019.

The Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division had on March 25, 2019 set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court, allowing the All Progressives Congress (APC) to field candidates in the 2019 election.

In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Tom Yakubu, the appellate court had held that the trial 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 instance case it was not done.

“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.

“Documented evidence has upper consideration than oral ones,” he said.

Justice Yakubu held that the plaintiffs being card-carrying party members and aspirants in the said primary election have legal capacity to institute the suit.

The appeal has also led to the non- issuance of certificate of return to the governor-elect, Idris, and other members of the state House of Assembly by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).