INEC under pressure to accommodate APC in Zamfara, Rivers

•AGF acting on a misleading petition —Ozekhome •Says Appeal court never granted such request to APC

The last may not have been heard about the legal blockade against candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers and Zamfara states, as some powerful interests in the Presidency are said to have upped their pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to include the candidates in the general election.

Sunday Tribune checks revealed that following the one-week postponement of the election, there are moves by the Presidency to use the window of the extension to prevail on INEC to allow the APC field candidates in the affected states.

The INEC has precluded the party from fielding candidates as it insisted that the APC did not conduct primaries for its candidates to emerge, a position that had been validated in series of court judgment, even by the Supreme Court in the case of Rivers State..

But an INEC source revealed to Sunday Tribune that INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has been put under intense pressure by these powerful interests and the electoral umpire may cave in soon by reversing itself,  following the intervention of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.

Findings revealed that the AGF had in a letter dated, February 13, 2019 and addressed  to INEC chairman advised the latter to postpone the state, National Assembly and  governorship  elections in Zamfara State.

Malami based  his request on the decision of the Court of Appeal Court, Sokoto Division, which however has been dismissed by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), counsel for Senator KabiruMarafa and 181 other respondents in the case Appeal No. CA/S/23/2019.

Malami  in his letter cited Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2010 and submitted that  granting the concession of postponing the polls in Zamfara State in the light of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, was not a matter of doing APC a favour but a right the party was entitled to.

His letter, addressed to INEC chairman, Professor Yakubu read in part: “ 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.

“Granting them this concession is not necessarily a 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.”

But Ozekhome in a letter addressed to the AGF and dated February 14, 2019 had accused the minister of justice of acting based deliberate  misinformation, insisting that the appellate court never granted such request.

According to him, contrary to the claim by the AGF and the petition that informed his letter to INEC, “the court took heated argument from all counsel including I.M Dikko SAN… More significantly the court held that the very motion filed by Governor Abdulaziz Yari, Sanusi Liman Alhaji, Mukthar ShehuIdris and others could not be argued as it had been overtaken by events by the discontinuance and dismissal of the appeal on which it was hinged…”

Ozekhome claimed that there was  “total misrepresentation and suppression of material facts  by the contents of a petition written  by M.A Mahmud SAN and Co” which the AGF based his action on, stating that there was indeed another pending case on the issue in the court  filed by Marafa.

Also, in Rivers State, further checks revealed that despite the Supreme Court pronouncement on the leadership tussle rocking the   Rivers state chapter of the APC, certain leaders of the party in the State had on Thursday blocked the main entrance to INEC secretariat in Port Harcourt, insisting that the party be allowed to field candidates.

The apex court in a lead judgment delivered  by  Justice Sidi Barge upheld the order of a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt,  nullifying  the All Progressives Congress  primaries in Rivers State.

The trial court had held that the primaries were held in disobedience to a court judgement barring  the party from conducting congresses,  pending the determination of a suit filed by 22 aggrieved members of the party.

RotimiOyekanmi, media aide to INEC chairman, Professor MahmoodYakubu declined comments as he did not respond to enquiry sent by Sunday Tribune reporter.

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