*PDP, govs hail S’Court’s refusal to upturn verdict
Chuks Okocha and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court yesterday turned down a request by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to reverse its decision upholding the declaration that it had no candidates in the 2019 general election in Zamfara State.
The apex court in a judgment delivered on May 24 had set aside the election of all APC’s candidates in Zamfara State on the grounds that they were not qualified to have participated in the 2019 general election having not been products of a lawful primary election.
The judgment, by implication, ceded all elective posts, governorship, National Assembly and state House of Assembly, earlier won by APC to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was the runner-up in the elections.
However, not satisfied with the Supreme Court judgment, APC in a fresh application marked: SC/377/2019 and filed by its lawyer, Robert Clarke (SAN) asked the court to review and set aside the consequential order it made that the party with the second largest votes and which satisfied all other constitutional requirements on spread should be declared winners of each stanza of the general election in Zamfara State.
But a five-man panel of the court, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, struck out the application for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The court in addition held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit since the consequential order raised in the motion emanated from the originating summon filed at the trial court.
The Supreme Court held that the consequential order arose from the substantive suit, which is within the prescribed 60 days for pre-election matters, saying the appeal is incompetent and the court lacks jurisdiction to review it.
Besides seeking the setting aside of the consequential order, the appellant also prayed the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh elections in the state as against its consequential order that directed candidates of other parties with the next highest votes to be sworn in.
A five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by the then Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, while delivery judgment in the main appeal, had held that the APC had no candidate in the election and as such could not be declared a winner of the election.
Consequently, the court ordered that candidates of parties with the highest number of valid votes cast with the required spread should be declared elected to the various political offices in the state.
The judgment principally centres on the governorship, National Assembly and state House of Assembly elections conducted in Zamfara State on February 23 and March 11, 2019.
APC candidates, including the former Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, who was elected to the Senate, had won most of the offices contested for in the 2019 elections with the candidates, emerging first runners-up.
By the unanimous judgment, all candidates of the APC that won elections in Zamfara State, including its governor-elect, Alhaji Mukhtar Idris, were sacked.
Justice Paul Galinje who read the lead judgment of the apex court maintained that the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the APC did not file any eligible candidate in the 2019 general election in Zamfara State.
The court consequently dismissed all the appeals bordering on the APC crisis in Zamfara State for lacking in merit. Justice Galinje awarded a cost of N10 million against the APC.
INEC in October last year had said it would not allow the APC to field candidates in Zamfara because the party failed to conduct primaries before the deadline stipulated by law.
PDP, Govs Hail Supreme Court’s Refusal to Reverse Self on Zamfara
In its reaction to the judgment, the PDP commended the Supreme Court for refusing to succumb to the pressure by APC to reverse its lawful and well-founded judgment.
A statement by PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday said the Supreme Court’s refusal had saved the nation from an embarrassment.
“By so doing, the Supreme Court has once again saved our nation from a huge constitutional crisis that could have devastated our constitutional democracy and corporate existence as a nation,” it added.
The PDP described the APC demands for a review of the judgment as blasphemous, a blackmail as well as a measured landmine set by the ruling party leaders to ambush and destroy the integrity of the Supreme Court.
It said the motive of the APC leaders was to ultimately sequester the institution of the judiciary and foist a totalitarian order on the polity.
“It is also instructive to note that by asking the Supreme Court to embark on a journey to nowhere, the APC clearly sought to subvert our democratic system and surreptitiously force on Nigerians a system that is completely alien to our constitutional democracy and outside the confines and dictates of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“APC’s demand is a direct threat to our democracy, peace and stability of our nation and shows its unwillingness, as a party, to abide by the rule of law,” the party said.
PDP also said the application had exposed the APC’s penchant for sowing crisis in the nation.
The PDP urged all well-meaning Nigerians, all institutions of democracy, as well as the security agencies to be cautious of the APC as it has shown that it is not committed to the unity and stability of Nigeria.
The PDP Governors Forum (PDPGF) also expressed joy that the Supreme Court rejected the APC application to review the May 24 judgment of the court on the Zamfara electiAons.
In a statement from its Abuja Secretariat, the Chairman of the Forum, Hon. Seriake Dickson, who doubles as the governor of Bayelsa State, threw its weight behind the unanimous judgment that the application was incompetent and lacking in merit.
The forum applauded the apex court for affirming its earlier decision over the matter.
It said, “Providence has by this verdict, put a stamp of approval on the exceptional developments achieved in the state by Governor Bello Matawalle since being sworn in on May 29, 2019.
“God stopped their sinister plan to thwart the people-oriented human, social, economic, environmental and structural development blueprints that Matawalle and his team have already rolled out for the state.
“We, in the PDP and majority of the good people of Zamfara, will welcome any errant but repentant APC politician, who sheds negativity and joins hands with us to implement policies that will further this state.”