By Oji Odu
Following the upholding of the decision to bar the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates in Zamfara state from the 2019 general election by the Court of Appeal, Sokoto, after a Federal High Court in Abuja had overruled the decision of the State High Court sitting in Zamfara, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and justice minister, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the election to field candidates in the exercise in Zamfara state. The High Court had earlier nullified INEC’s decision to bar the APC candidates for the party’s failure at meeting deadline to hold primaries.
In a three-page letter to INEC signed by Malami dated February 13, 2019, with reference number MJ/DSD/03, he sought the postponement of National Assembly elections, the governorship, State House of Assembly polls in Zamafara State to enable the APC candidates to contest at the polls.
“In view of the fact, now that the Court of Appeal has upheld the primaries as valid, the APC in Zamfara State will need a little time to catch up with its contemporaries in the election,” Malami said.
The justice minister argued that postponing the polls in Zamfara State in the light of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, was not a matter of doing APC favour, but a right the party was entitled to. “Granting them this concession is not necessarily favour but a right that inures to all contestants under similar circumstances.
“Consequent on the above, INEC is invited to comply with the judgement 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 House of Assembly elections,” he added.
But human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) in his reaction to the directive by the AGF to the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone elections in Zamfara State so that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will field candidates for the 2019 elections, not only berated the APC for taking Nigerians for a ride, but described Malami’s directive as an act of desperation and advised INEC to reject it.
The Minister had said his decision was predicated on the judgment of the state High Court in suit No ZMS/GS/52/2018 between Sanusi Liman Dan-Alhaji and 37 others Vs APC and 144 others; and Appeal No: CA/S/23/2019.
“This letter is wrong. It shows that they are desperate. INEC should reject it. They see Nigeria as an APC entity. They don’t believe that Nigeria is not for APC alone but to all Nigerians. It is a wrong request that should be ignored,” Ezekhome said.
The Magazine learnt that the Court of Appeal in Sokoto had earlier validated the position of the INEC that the APC in Zamfara State does not have candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections coming up on February 16 and March 2.
The Court, presided over by Justice Jumai Sankey, with other members of the panel, Justices Ndukwe Anyanwu and Vincent Abiru, had dismissed the appeal and the motion filed by Governor Abdulaziz Yari and Alhaji Muktar Idris praying the court to be allowed to contest the elections.
It upheld the argument of Ozekhome and Isiaka Dikko (SAN) that the notice of discontinuance earlier filed on February 11 by Hon. Sani Jaji under Order 11 Rules 1 and 5 of the Court of Appeal Rules had completely extinguished the appeal upon which Idris’ counsel, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), had predicated his motion filed on February 8.
In a chat with The Source, Oyekanmi Adelaja, a lawyer, he said that this is victory for the Nigerian judiciary. As long as the decision to bar the APC candidates in both Zamfara and Rivers States from participating in the 2019 general elections, “ it has laid a precedence that nobody or political party in the country can take Nigerians for a ride and hole the system to ransome, whether it is the party in power or not.
“ I pray that nothing will scuttle this judgement which has put the country on a respectable pedestal in the comity of nations,” he said.