•PDP, CUPP, Fayose others hail verdict
•Zamfara ruling, lesson for INEC, politicians, parties — LAWYERS
•INEC gets court’s nod to resume collation of Bauchi gov poll result
ABUJA — The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, suffered a major setback yesterday, when the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division declined recognition of its primaries that produced National and state House of Assembly candidates in Zamfara State, including the Governor-elect, Muktar Idris.
The party is also challenged on the Bauchi State governorship seat as a Federal high Court sitting in Abuja dismissed its earlier order halting the collation of Tafawa Balewa LGA results for the governorship election held on March 9 in the state.
APC candidate and incumbent governor, Mohammed Abubakar with 470,570 votes is trailing Senator Bala Mohammed of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The PDP standard bearer scored 475,888 votes in the governorship poll of March 9 and make-up election of March 23 and is said to be leading in Tafawa Balewa LGA, which is considered a PDP stronghold in Bauchi.
At press time, INEC was still collating the result. Mr. Festus Okoye, a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said the commission will conclude the remaining result from Tafawa Balewa LGA and announce the winner.
Expectedly, the court verdicts elicited reactions from stakeholders. The main opposition PDP, the Coalition of United Political Parties,CUPP, and immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, hailed the ruling, just as lawyers outlined the implications of the decisions.
Appeal Court sets aside high court ruling
The Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division set aside the verdict of the Zamfara High Court, allowing the APC to field candidates in the 2019 election.
A Zamfara State High Court recognised the APC primaries that produced governorship, state and National Assembly candidates and ordered INEC to accept the party’s candidates for the elections.
Dissatisfied with State High Court decision, the appellants, Senator Kabiru Marafa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) and 129 others through their Counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, approached the Appeal Court and challenged the decision on the ground that the State High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit among others.
The respondents — Kabiru Liman-Danalhaji and 139 others were represented by Mr Mahmud Magaji, SAN, as lead counsel.
Delivering the lead judgement, which was adopted by two other justices – Tijjani Abubakar and Jamilu Tukur, Justice Tom Yakubu, held that the lower court failed in its duty to properly evaluate the evidence before it.
Yakubu said judges have the legal power to produce judgement and reach decisions with reason, noting that in the instance case it was not done.
“I am convinced that the lower court has failed to evaluate the evidence before reaching the decision. The Appeal Court has power in law to access pieces of evidence on appeal, which we have done. Based on available facts, the respondents did not contradict the INEC evidence on conducting the said primary election,” he said.
According to the presiding judge, “Documented evidence has upper consideration than oral ones,” adding that the plaintiffs, being card-carrying party members and aspirants in the said primary election have legal capacity to institute the suit.
He held that federal, states and FCT High Courts have jurisdiction to entertain such matter.
The judges agreed that the judgment should serve as “bitter lesson” for political parties as they ought to follow legitimate guidelines and rules.
“Domestic affairs of political party activities must act within the confines of the law in dealing with party members and elections,” they said.
Court dismisses order stopping collation of Bauchi gov poll result
Also, the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, gave INEC the nod to proceed with the collation and announcement of result of the governorship election held in Bauchi State on March 9.
The court, in a judgement delivered by Justice Iyang Ekwo, dismissed the suit the APC and its candidate, Mohammed Abubakar, lodged to stop further collation of results.
Justice Ekwo held that the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate on post-election matters, even as he vacated the interim order that hitherto restrained the electoral body from going ahead with its plan to conclude the collation process and announce the final result.
The court upheld INEC’s preliminary objection to the suit, stressing that the plaintiffs ought to have channelled their grievances to the election petition tribunal.
The court had on March 19 ordered all the parties to maintain status quo ante, pending final determination of the suit which had INEC as the sole defendant.
The APC and Governor Abubakar had through their lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, prayed the court to hold that INEC was wrong in its decision to resume collation of results of the Bauchi State governorship election which it had declared inconclusive.
They prayed the court to compel the electoral body to go ahead with the supplementary election which was earlier billed for March 23.
However, INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Tanimu Inuwa, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the suit as grossly lacking in merit.
The electoral body equally queried jurisdiction of the court to handle the matter it said ought to have been ventilated before the election petition tribunal.
INEC prayed the court to uphold averments contained in the counter-affidavit it filed in opposition to the suit.
In the said counter-affidavit that was deposed to by one Hassan Adamu, INEC, contended that the high court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit or to halt the collation process.
It argued that contrary to the position of the plaintiffs, the decision to conclude collation of results from Tafawa Balewa LGA of Bauchi State, was based on figures contained in the duplicates of results of the election.
The commission insisted that since it had resolved to collate the already garnered results, “only Election Petition Tribunal has the jurisdiction to review the decision.”
Bauchi ruling, victory for democracy – PDP
The PDP, yesterday, said the “Bauchi ruling was victory for democracy and triumph of judicial process.”
Its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, who told Vanguard on phone that the party was “still studying the ruling on Zamfara and would respond properly tomorrow (Tuesday)” hailed the judiciary for upholding its position that the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the Bauchi case.
CUPP hails Zamfara ruling
Hailing the ruling on Zamfara, CUPP said that the vacation of the ex-parte order on Bauchi governorship election results collation gives room for declaration of the PDP’s candidate as winner.
In a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, the CUPP said with the court’s decision, “gradually the house of political injustice APC built will collapse on their head.”
On the Bauchi governorship case, it said: “The road is now clear for the official declaration of Senator Bala Mohammed as the people’s governor-elect for Bauchi State.
“This ruling is a huge victory for our constitutional democracy and an end to the shameful attempts by enemies of our constitutional governance to use the court to ambush and deny the Bauchi people their constitutional right to see the man they elected sworn in as their governor.”
Fayose urges INEC to present certificates of return to PDP candidates
In like manner, Mr. Fayose described the nullification of APC’s candidates’ participation in the 2019 elections in Zamfara State by the Appeal Court as an indication of hope for Nigeria’s democracy.
“Hope appears not lost for democracy in Nigeria after all,” he said and urged the INEC to demonstrate courage by presenting certificates of return to the PDP governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly candidates in Zamfara State.
“Those who cannot play by their own rules and run the affairs of their own party in accordance with laid-down rules should not be rewarded with elective positions. INEC must therefore, act decisively by halting the presentation of certificates of return to the impostor termed APC governorship candidate, withdraw it from the National Assembly candidates and hand the certificates to the PDP candidates who are lawful winners of the elections.”
Reacting to the judgement yesterday through his Media Aide, Lere Olayinka, the former governor congratulated PDP candidates in Zamfara State, especially the governorship candidate, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, and said: “Those who believed that they can impose their wish on the
people of Zamfara State will be defeated ultimately.”
He also saluted the courage of Senator Kabiru Marafa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) and others, who despite being members of the APC refused to succumb to injustice and brazen disregard for the party’s rules by its leaders.
Zamfara ruling, a lesson to politicians, INEC — Ojo
To Mr. Gbenga Ojo, a senior Law lecturer at the Lagos State University said “Rotimi Amaechi’s case is playing out in another fashion in Zamfara. The ruling serves good and bitter lesson to both INEC and desperate politicians. When a matter is in court, out of respect to the court, INEC or any other body must tarry a little bit.
“Anything done during the pendency of a suit will be over reached by the decision of the court. In view of the judgement, the APC candidate did not participate in the election. So, the next person steps in as the governor. That takes us back to Amaechi’s case. It is good omen for our democracy and rule of law.”
It’s legendary, retributive – Ufeli
On his part, Mr. Evans Ufeli, Executive Director of Cadrell Advocacy Centre, CAC, said: “The Appeal court judgement nullifying the 2019 APC primaries in Zamfara delivered on Monday 25 March, 2019 is legendary and as well, retributive. This judgement sends a serious warning to all political parties in Nigeria that their house-keeping and affairs must be keep clean, sacred and within the confines of the law.
“The implication of the aforementioned judgement at a time when the APC has already won the gubernatorial elections in Zamfara State could only mean that upon this nullification it sets a record that the party contested nothing and won nothing. It was never qualified, ab initio to field candidates for the elections given the way its primaries were conducted.
“The INEC Returning Officer in the state, Prof. Kabiru Bala, declared Mr Mukhtar Shehu of the APC as the winner on March 11 at the end of the collation of results at the INEC headquarters in Gusau, the state capital.
“This declaration made by INEC must collapse. I know this judgement will be appealed by the APC but should the Supreme Court uphold the judgment, the party that came second in the elections shall be sworn in to lead as the court will definitely make consequential orders to this effect. But should the judgement of the Court of Appeal be upturned by the Supreme Court, then the status quo will subsist.”