By Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja

Two courts yesterday issued conflicting rulings on whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can accept candidates presented by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Zamfara State elections in 2019.

In Zamfara State, a High Court sitting in Gusau, ruled that the governing APC actually conducted primaries in the state and should be allowed to present candidates for electoral contest.

An Abuja court, however, ruled otherwise.

The Zamfara court specifically directed INEC to accept candidates from the party for Zamfara States in the forthcoming elections.

INEC had last October said it would not allow the APC to field candidates in Zamfara because the party failed to conduct primaries before the deadline stipulated.

Some members of APC in the state had approached the court challenging the decision of INEC.

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.

Justice Muhammad Shinkafi, who delivered the ruling said APC had conducted primary 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.

In case with a suit number ZMS/GS/52/2018, Sanusi Liman Dan Alhaji and 37 others vs APC and 143, the plaintiffs had asked the court to compel the APC and INEC to accept the results of the party’s primaries election in the state conducted on the October 7, 2018 among others.

But a Federal High Court in Abuja ruled otherwise, saying INEC acted within its powers by refusing to accept the list of candidates from the Zamfara State chapter of the APC.

The court, presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in her judgment, said it was not the fault of INEC that the APC failed to conduct a valid primary within the period scheduled by the electoral body.

Justice Ojukwu said INEC’s action was intended to curb impunity among political parties and politicians and ensure that rule of law is adhered to.

The judgment was on a suit filed in the name of APC by some individuals, who said they emerged from a consensus arrangement adopted by the party in Zamfara State.

Justice Ijeoma contended that the APC failed to conduct a valid primary within the period scheduled by the electoral body.

She said such action from INEC was good for democracy, saying it would instill discipline in political parties.

The judgment was in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018, in the name of APC by some individuals, who said they emerged from a consensus arrangement adopted by the party in Zamfara State.

The judge noted if consensus candidates are to emerge, there are laid down rules, the constitution of a party, which must be adhered to strictly.

She said from the facts of the case before her, the applicants did not abide by their constitution in submitting names of candidates to INEC. She therefore dismissed the application for lacking in merit.

The APC (faction) had dragged the INEC to court, seeking an order to permit its candidates to participate in the forthcoming general elections in the state.

The party, in the suit, further applied for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain INEC from giving effect to the content of a letter with Reg. No. lNEC/SEC/654/1/330 and dated October 9, which foreclosed it from presenting candidates in Zamfara for failing to conduct its primaries within the stipulated time.

Joined in the case were the governorship aspirant of APC in the state, Senator Garba Marafa and a senatorial aspirant, Alhaji Siraju, as well as seven other chieftains of the party, as defendants in the suit.

The APC, in the suit prayed the court to declare that INEC’s letter purporting to exclude the party from presenting and submitting the list of its candidates for the forthcoming election in Zamfara state scheduled for 2019, is null, void, ultra vires and of no effect having regards to the provisions of sections 31(1) and 86(2), (3) and (4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

“A declaration that by virtue of section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and section 31(1) of the Electoral Act (as amended), the defendant lacks the power to refuse to collect the name of the plaintiff’s candidates for Zamfara state presented and to be submitted to it not later than 60 days before the election scheduled for February 2019.”

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