*Presents certificates of return to winners of Zamfara polls
By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that there are 809 preelection cases pending in various courts across the country challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties for the 2019 general election.
The commission also added that the number of Certificates of Return withdrawn by court orders had risen to 64.
Against this background, the commission has vowed that it would no longer accept the submission of names of candidates by political parties under Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) unless there is evidence of compliance with the provision of Section 87 of the Act and monitored by the Commission.
The Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this Monday during the presentation of Certificates of Return to Governor-elect, Deputy Governor-elect, Senators-elect and Members of the House of Representatives-elect from Zamfara State, held at INEC Electoral Institute, Abuja.
He said that the presentation of certificates of return to winners of any election conducted by INEC was a statutory responsibility required of the Commission under Section 75 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
In compliance with the judgement of the Supreme Court, Yakubu presented twelve certificates of return to the Governor-elect, Deputy Governor-elect, three Senators-elect and seven Members of the House of Representatives-elect, adding that on Friday May 31, twenty-four certificates would be presented in Gusau to winners of the State Assembly elections.
The chairman reiterated the importance of conducting proper primaries before elections in order to reduce the spate of litigation associated with them.
Yakubu stated: “At the moment, there are 809 pre-election cases pending in various courts across the country challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties for the 2019 general election. This is clearly more than the total number of petitions currently before the various election petition tribunals nationwide challenging the outcome of the main elections.
“In our last update, the Commission reported that 25 certificates of return had been withdrawn and issued to persons declared winners by courts of law. Since then, three more certificates have been withdrawn by court order. With the Zamfara case, the figure has now risen to 64.
“In addition, the Commission is studying nine more judgements we were served in the last one week in which primary elections conducted by different political parties were upturned by the courts.”
The chairman noted that the Zamfara example was not the first pre-election case determined by the Supreme Court arising from the recent party primaries, stressing that the apex court had earlier determined the case of Lere Federal Constituency in Kaduna State which the Commission had already complied with and issued the certificate of return to the winner.
He said it is therefore important to continue to emphasise to the political parties that their obligation to conduct credible primaries for the nomination of candidates, adding that the country’s democracy in particular and electoral process in general can never be virile unless political parties rise to the challenge of internal party democracy.
Yakubu stressed, “It is in this context that the latest judgements of the Supreme Court are crucial steps in strengthening our electoral jurisprudence.
“Going forward, we will not accept the submission of names of candidates by political parties under Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) unless there is evidence, monitored by the Commission, of compliance with the provision of Section 87 of the Act.
“Party members interested in contesting elections start as aspirants before they emerge as candidates through the democratic process of direct or indirect primaries enshrined in Section 87 of the Electoral Act. It is only after they comply with this requirement of the law can their names be submitted to INEC under Section 31. We shall continue to work with the political parties to ensure strict compliance.”
The chairman said that with exactly 171 days to the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections scheduled for 16 November 2019, party primaries are scheduled to be conducted between 2nd and 29th August 2019, he urged political parties to make the two elections shining examples of internal democracy by the way they conduct their primary elections.
On his part, Zamfara Governor-elect, Bello Matawalle, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for not interfering in the judicial process during the legal tussle despite his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) losing to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He also commended the electoral body for ensuring equality, fairness and level playing ground for all political players in the state.