Barely 48 hours to the general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is under intense pressure to postpone National Assembly, Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in a letter to the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu sighted by Business Day asked the Commission to invoke its powers under section 38 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to postpone these elections untill candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC are allowed to participate in the polls.
Malami letter dated yesterday, February 13 was written after the Court of Appeal in Sokoto upheld the earlier ruling of High Court Zamfara which ordered INEC to accept APC candidates in Zamfara State earlier rejected by the Commission for non – compliance with the October 7 deadline for the conduct of party primaries while a Federal High Court, Abuja on the same day ruled that APC did not conduct primaries in Zamfara.
Thus, INEC last week maintained that APC did not conduct primaries in Zamfara and, “in line with Section 87 of the Electoral Act 20l0 (as amended), is not eligible to field candidates for the National Assembly, Governorship and State Assembly elections in Zamfara State.
“The Commission reviewed the situation concerning the All Progressives Congress (APC) fielding candidates for the Governorship and State Assembly elections in Zamfara State. The Commission noted that there are two court judgements on the matter one from a State High Court in Gusau and the other from a Federal High Court in Abuja.
“The former judgement clearly said that the APC conducted primaries in Zamfara State, contrary to the position of the Commission. On the other hand, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that the party did not conduct valid primaries and therefore is ineligible to field candidates for the elections”, INEC stated.
But following the decision of the Appeal Court, Malami wrote INEC that, “my office received a petition from the firm of M. A. Mahmud, SAN & CO in respect of the above subject matter, (copy attached for ease of reference) requesting that the subsisting judgment in Suit No. ZMS/GS/52/2018-ZMS/GS SANUSI LANIN DAN-ALHAJI&37 ORS VS APC&44 ORS to be upheld and respected by INEC, as the Court of Appeal has upheld the Appeal tn Appeal No. CA/S/23/2019, (scanned copy attached for ease of reference) thus effectively annulling the grounds upon which the purported cancellation of the APC Primaries In Zamfarag’, State by INEC was based.
“You may wish to recall that the Zamfara State High Court upheld the Zamfara APC Primaries in the suit mentioned in the first paragraph above, held on the 3rd and 7th October, 2018 for the Govemorship and the National and State Legislative Houses. Copy attached for ease of reference.
“You may further wish to recall that in Suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018 All Progressives Congress (APC) V. INEC 81 S ORS, the Federal High Court held that the nullification of the said Zamfara APC Primaries by INEC was lawful. However, this decision has been upturned in Appeal No CA/S/23/2019. Copy is also attached for ease of reference.
“In the circumstance and in consideration of the provisions of Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010, the law allows INEC the latitude and discretion to extend the time within which a political party may duly field a candidate for an election where unforeseen circumstances constrained such a party from doing so within the stipulated time frame.
“Section 38 states: Where at the close of nomination, there is no candidate validly nominated, the Commission SHALL extend time for the nomination and fix a new date for the election.
“Section 39 states: Subject to any other provisions of this Act, if after the latest time for the delivery of nomination papers, and the withdrawal of candidates for an election under this Act, more than one person remains validly nominated, a poll shall be taken.
“In this particular instance, the constraining circumstances that led to the delay in fielding a candidate were caused by INEC’s refusal to comply with the Zamfara High Court judgment suit to upheld the primaries. Moreover, INEC cannot foreclosed the right of a political party to participate in the forthcoming election without recourse to the act.
“Consequent on the above, INEC is invited to comply with the judgment of the Court of Appeal by admitting the results of the APC Zamfara State primaries and to also comply with the provisions of section 38 of the Electoral Act which empowers INEC to postpone the election for the governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections”, the letter read in parts.
INEC has not reacted to the letter despite repeated enquiries by correspondent.
The call to postpone these elections is coming at a time INEC has already printed ballot papers for Presidential and National Assembly elections obviously without APC logo for Zamfara State.
Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity Committee last week announced that Central Bank branches across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, have taken delivery of sensitive materials such as ballot papers and result sheets for safe keeping.