Supreme Court to decide Zamfara APC matter before vacation

The Supreme Court has said that it will decide the pre-election case of the Zamfara State All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries before the court proceeds on its annual vacation.

The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammed, who presided over the appeal filed by the governor-elect of Zamfara state and, Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris and others against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, said the court will do all within its powers to decide the case one way or the other before the court’s vacation.

The Sokoto Division of the Appeal Court had nullified the primaries that produced candidates for the last general elections in the state at all levels on the ground that due process was not followed in the conduct of the primaries.

Not satisfied with the decision of the court, the governor-elect approached the apex court to challenge that decision.

During the proceedings before the court yesterday, counsel to Senator Kabiru Marafa, who led other respondents in the appeal, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) sought to move a preliminary objection, dated 30th April 2019.

He told the court that in the face of the law, there is no appeal before the court.

He was about arguing his objection when Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), objected and told the court to order that the objection and the brief of arguments of parties in the matter should be taken together.

Citing order 6 rule 5 of the civil procedure rules of the court, Fagbemi reminded the court that the practice had been adopted in so many cases before the court.

He said if Ozekhome’s objection succeeds, the case will terminate at the preliminary objection stage but if it fails, the court will look into the merit of the case.

After parties made their submissions, the court agreed that the case should be fixed for May 16th, 2019.

The Court of Appeal Sokoto Division had on March 25, 2019, set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court, allowing the APC to field candidates in the 2019 Election.

Delivering the lead judgment, 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.

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Yakubu said, “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,” Yakubu said.”

The Presiding judge, said, “documented evidence has upper consideration than oral ones” and held that the plaintiffs, being card-carrying party members and aspirants in the said primary election have the legal capacity to institute the suit.

The appeal has also led to the non-issuance of certificate of return to the Governor-elect, Idris, and other members of the State House of Assembly.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), withheld the certificate the All Progressive Congress (APC) elected candidates in Zamfara, after the elections.

About a month ago, the governor-elect, wrote to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, drawing his attention to the notice of appeal filed at the Supreme Court.

In a letter dated 2nd April, Alhaji Idris, had through his counsel, Mahmud Magaji, SAN, said that the purported judgement of the Court of Appeal has no positive or direct order.

He argued that assuming there is even a court order arising from the said judgement, they still have 21 days within which to appeal, thus, putting into abeyance the said judgement until after the lapse of the said 21days.

He maintained that in the case at hand, the party (APC Zamfara) still have 21 days existing side by side with their constitutional right of appeal.

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