Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court has fixed May 24 to deliver judgment in the multiple appeals arising from the crisis that rocked the Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) relating to its primary elections.
In a marathon court session that dragged for over six hours, the five-man panel of the apex court led by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammed, took submissions and arguments canvassed by counsel to parties to the appeal.
The appeals were a direct fallout of the judgment of the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal that set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court allowing the APC to field candidates in the 2019 elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, in October last year, said it would not allow the APC to field candidates in Zamfara because the party failed to conduct primaries before the deadline stipulated.
However, a High Court sitting in Gusau, Zamfara State, ruled that the ruling APC actually conducted primaries in the state and should be allowed to present candidates for the electoral contest.
The judgment followed a suit number ZMS/GS/52/2018, filed by Sanusi Liman, Dan Alhaji and 37 others vs APC who approached the court to compel the APC and INEC to accept the results of the party’s primaries election in the state conducted on October 7, 2018, among others.
The party said it conducted primaries which produced current Governor Abdulaziz Yari as a senatorial candidate and his Commissioner of Finance, Shehu Idris, as the governorship candidate, among others.
The court, therefore, directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept candidates from the party for Zamfara State in the forthcoming elections.
The judge, Muhammad Shinkafi, who delivered the ruling, said APC conducted primaries elections on October 3 and 7, 2018.
The court also barred the national secretariat of the APC from replacing the names of those who won the primary elections of the party.
Dissatisfied, with the judgment of the state high court, a factional chieftain of the party, Senator Kabiru Marafa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), and 129 others had in their appeal filed through their counsel, Mr. Mike Ozheokome, urged the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal to set it aside.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Tom Yakubu held that the lower court failed in its duty to properly evaluate the evidence before it.
Accordingly, the court set aside the judgment of the Zamfara State High Court which recognised the primary election that produced governorship, state and National Assembly candidates held by APC in the state and declared that INEC accept the party candidates for the elections.
Not satisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the appellants led by Sanusi Liman-Danalhaji and 139 others, filed the appeal at the Supreme Court wherein, they urged the apex court to set it aside.
While the first appeal was entered against Senator Kabiru Marafa and other members of his faction, the second set of appeal was filed by the APC against Senator Marafa and his factional members of the party.
Although, Senator Marafa who won at the Court of Appeal had equally filed a cross-appeal at the Supreme Court, same was withdrawn today by his counsel, Mike Ozekhome.
Moving the appeal No SC 378/2019, filed by Sanusi Liman, his lead counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, pleaded with the court to hear and determine the appeal speedily so as not to create a constitutional crisis in the state on May 29.
His counterpart in the appeal by the APC, Damien Dodo, shared his sentiment in calling for expeditious determination of the appeal.
While Ozekhome and Taminu Inuwa, counsel to INEC had moved the court to dismiss the appeals for lacking in merit, the appellants counsel argued otherwise in urging the court to allow the appeals.
After submissions by counsels, the court announced that judgment will be delivered on Friday, May 24.