Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court 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 the submissions of counsel in the suit.
Muhammad however, assured that the apex court would do everything within its powers to decide the case one way or the other before the court goes on its annual vacation in July.
The governor-elect and a faction of the APC in Zamfara State that 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 elections 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 that decision.
When the matter came up yesterday, 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 parties made their submissions, the court agreed that the case should be fixed for May 16, 2019.
The Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division had on March 25, 2019 set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court, allowing the 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,” Yakubu said.
He added that, “documented evidence has upper consideration than oral ones”.
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).