The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division Thursday night gave the Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC), a reprieve by upturning the decision of a Federal High Court, which barred the party from fielding candidates in the forthcoming general elections in Zamfara state.
Justice Abdu Aboki, who led a panel of three-justices, sitting in Abuja, held that the trial judge presided by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of a Federal High Court, Abuja, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/12791/2018, lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit in the first place since it was not filed within the 14 days allowed by law.
Justice Ojukwu in a Judgment delivered on January 25, affirmed the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to exclude APC’s candidates in Zamfara State from the general election on the grounds that the party in Zamfara State failed to conduct primary election for the selection of its candidates for various elective positions in the general election.
In the judgment barring APC Zamfara from the election, Justice Ojukwu held that INEC acted within its powers by refusing to accept the list of APC candidates for the 2019 general elections, saying it would instill discipline in political parties to adhere to their Constitution and electoral guidelines
Justice Ojukwu had in her Judgment held that it was not the fault of INEC that the APC failed to conduct a valid primary within the period scheduled by the electoral body.
According to her, the decision of the electoral umpire was intended to curb impunity among political parties and politicians and also ensure that they abide by the rule of law in their conduct.
But the appellate court however in its Judgment yesterday set aside the judgment of Justice Ojukwu, describing it as an abuse of court process.
According to Justice Aboki, for the fact that the suit at the Federal High Court was filed 15 days after the cause of action had arisen rendered it incompetent.
The appellate court subsequently set aside the order of the lower court barring APC in Zamfara State from participating in the 2019 general elections.
The suit was filed by some APC members, who said they emerged from a consensus arrangement adopted by the party in Zamfara State.
INEC had in September 2018 barred APC from fielding candidates for the elections over ‘failure to hold credible primary elections’.
In a letter to the APC leadership, INEC had said, “Based on the provision of Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidate from Zamfara State.
“For clarity, our position, therefore, is that the APC will not be fielding candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and state Assembly elections.”
National chairman of the APC Adams Oshiomhole, thereafter, accused INEC of bias.
But, a state High Court sitting in Gusau, in October, issued an interim order restraining INEC from disqualifying the APC from fielding candidates for the 2019 elections.