|Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that no fewer than 809 pre-election cases are currently pending before the law courts across the country to challenge the primaries conducted by the political parties ahead 2019 general elections.
The commission’s Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, made the disclosure while presenting certificate of return to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Zamfara State governor-elect, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, three senators and seven House of Representatives-elect in Abuja.
He further lamented that the commission had withdrawn 64 certificates of return and issued to persons declared winners by courts of law, warning the political parties to conduct credible primaries for the November Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship elections.
“The presentation of certificates of return to winners of any election conducted by INEC is 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, 12 certificates of return will be presented on this occasion to the governor-elect, deputy governor-elect, three senators-elect and seven members of the House of Representatives-elect.
“On Friday this week, 24 certificates will be presented in Gusau to winners of the state Assembly elections. I want to reiterate the importance of conducting proper primaries before elections in order to reduce the spate of litigation associated with them.
“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 elections. 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“In our last update, the commission reported that 25 certificates of return had been withdrawn and issued to persons declared winners by courts of law. Since then, three more certificates have been withdrawn by court order.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 Zamfara example is not the first pre-election case determined by the Supreme Court arising from the recent party primaries.
“Earlier, the apex court had 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. It is therefore important to continue to emphasise to our political parties their obligation to conduct credible primaries for the nomination of candidates.
“Our democracy in particular and electoral process in general can never be virile unless political parties rise to the challenge of internal party democracy. 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 Sec. 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 complied 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.
“Let me once again remind political parties that we have exactly 171 days to the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections scheduled for November 16 2019. Party primaries are scheduled to be conducted between August 2 and 29 2019. Let us make the two elections shining examples of internal democracy by the way the political parties conduct their primary elections. This will no doubt have a positive impact on the conduct of the proper elections,” he warned.
Responding, the Zamfara governor-elect, Bello, Mohammed Matawalle, promised to run an inclusive government, announcing that he was happy to the first Zamfara governor on the platform of the PDP.