Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it will not issue certificates of return to the All Progressives Congress (APC) Zamfara state governor-elect and the House of Assembly members-elect, following the ruling of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal, on Monday.
A Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto set aside the Zamfara High Court judgement; on whose strength the APC fielded candidates for the 2019 governorship, National Assembly and House of Assembly elections.
Delivering judgement in Sokoto, the presiding judge, Justice Tom Shuaibu Yakubu, said the lower court did not properly evaluate and assess all the evidence put before it before making its judgement.
In that regard, the three member panel of judges, led by justice Yakubu, said on a critical re-evaluation and re-assessment of the evidence by the appellant court, it was discovered that the party did not follow the provision of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended and the guidelines provided by the party in selecting its candidates.
The judge also held that the party had made two unsuccessful attempts to conduct primaries in the state and list of candidates were not duly submitted to INEC, by the national headquarters of the party.
He said: “We have looked at the exhibits 4, 7 and 8 which are very clear that primary election was not conducted.
“Evidence shows that the state governor only appointed a special committee that later came up with candidates’ names in place of primary elections.
“So far, all evidence constituted that primary election was not conducted; which contravened the electoral law.”
Acknowledging receipt of the Appeal Court ruling, in a statement from the Director Information and Voter Education, Oluwale Osaze-Uzzi, the Commission noted that, although it would study the judgement, it has, in the interim, decided to withhold issuance of certificates of return to the newly-elected governor and House of Assembly members-elect.
“INEC has been served with the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto, concerning sponsoring of candidates by the APC in Zamfara and is studying same. Consequently, the presentation of certificates of return for the Zamfara governorship and House of Assembly members-elect, scheduled for Wednesday, March 27, 2019 has been suspended,” Osaze-Uzzi said.
Asked the fate of Senators and House of Representatives-elect from Zamfara state, on the platforme of the APC, who have been issued certificates of return, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, told Daily Sun the Commission will meet very soon to take decision on that.
“I can confirm to you that we will not issue certificates of return to the governor and House of Assembly members-elect from Zamfara. As for the newly-elected National Assembly members we have already issued certificates, the Commission will meet to decide on the next line of action,” Okoye reitaerated.
Earlier, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome had called on INEC to obey the latest Appeal Court judgement.
The human rights activist said INEC’s intervention was needed, “to ensure that the Commission does not run foul of the law and the extant judgment of the Court of Appeal, by illegally issuing certificates of return to the Zamfara APC members who purportedly emerged from the now flawed and cancelled primaries.