Judgements On Zamfara APC Put INEC in Difficult Position
By Fidelis Mac-Leva & Clement A. Oloyede
…Commission to decide after studying ‘conflicting judgments’
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said yesterday it has yet to take a decision on the status of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with regards to presenting candidates in the forthcoming general elections, as it is still awaiting the two conflicting judgments on the matter.
Spokesman of the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the commission would make its position known after obtaining and studying the merits and demerits of both judgments.
“The two conflicting judgments were given on the same day and when such conflicting judgments are given, it poses a challenge to INEC. However, the commission is awaiting the judgments to study their merits and demerits before making its position known on Zamfara”, Oyerkanmi said.
The Federal High Court in Abuja had on Friday upheld the decision of INEC not to accept candidates of the APC in Zamfara State for the 2019 general elections while a Zamfara State High Court on the same day gave a contrary judgement, ordering INEC to recognise and accept the candidates of the party.
It would be recalled that INEC barred the Zamfara State APC was barred from fielding candidates in the forthcoming elections due to its inability to conduct primaries within the period stipulated, a development that caused the state APC to approach the court.
But reacting to the two rulings delivered on Friday, Professor Auwalu Yadudu, told Daily Trust on Sunday that “it would be best if they (INEC) approach the Court of Appeal, a court of higher jurisdiction, to resolve the issue.”
On his part, the Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Prof. Adedeji Adekunle (SAN), said without commenting on the merits or otherwise of the courts’ judgments, the options before INEC include: “appealing the decision, taking legal advice from the Ministry of Justice or it (INEC) can also decide to take legal advice from its own advisers if it wants to assert its independence.
Adding his voice, a constitutional lawyer, Sebastine Hon, said “INEC is not subject to a state High Court in matters like this but rather subject to the Federal High Court, being a federal government agency pursuant to S251(1) of the Constitution. So, INEC cannot now pretend to be obeying the Zamfara court and disobey a judgement of the Federal High Court.
“The exigency on the ground is that both courts have given judgements that are conflicting in nature, under normal circumstances, a higher court (Appeal Court) should have interpreted which of the judgements is binding. However, it looks like there is no time for any pronouncement to that effect. Therefore, facing this quagmire, INEC has no choice but to comply with the judgement of the court that has jurisdiction,” he said.
Asked if approaching the appellate court by INEC would be the ideal situation, Hon said with barely a few days to the elections, it is difficult, though possible, for the Appeal Court to make pronouncement on the issue.
“It is possible if INEC or any affected party appeals and using the fast track rules of the Court of Appeal, the appeal may be heard and judgement given before the election date. My problem, however, is; did INEC include APC candidates in the ballot papers that have been printed so far? If they did not, how can they include them now? These are the challenges,” he said.
Another constitution lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) also said the judgement of the Federal High Court prevails in the present scenario.
“Since the Federal High Court and Zamfara State high court are of coordinate jurisdiction and since the Federal High Court has special jurisdictional powers over matters like this pursuant to S251 of the Constitution, it is clear that the judgment by the Zamfara State High Court is a non sequitur, it does not fly at all”, he said.
The conflicting courts judgments
The Federal High Court in Abuja held that INEC’s decision to reject the candidates’ list of the APC in Zamfara State was within the powers vested in the commission by the constitution.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in her judgement, said that the APC failed to conduct a valid primary within the stipulated time and the problem could not be blamed on INEC.
The judge said INEC’s action was intended to curb impunity among political parties and politicians; and ensure that rule of law is adhered to.
However, a Zamfara State High Court in Gusau presided over by Justice Muhammad Bello Shinkafi affirmed that the APC in Zamfara State conducted primary elections on 3rd and 7th of October 2018.
The court also asked INEC to accept the primaries for the APC’s governorship, senatorial, house of representatives and state Assembly seats.
The National Secretariat of APC was also barred from replacing the names of those who won the primary elections of the party on 7th October 2018.
© Daily Trust