INEC holds emergency meeting ……as Supreme Court annuls APC candidates’ election in Zamfara

The Independent National Electoral Commission will meet on Saturday (today) to brainstorm on the Friday judgment of the Supreme Court, which annulled the victories of the All Progressives Congress candidates in the February and March general elections in Zamfara State.

Today’s meeting is a continuation of the emergency meeting which the commission started on Friday.

The commission has however said its decision will be communicated to the public on Monday.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed this in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday after its meeting.

He said, “Following the Supreme Court’s judgment delivered on Friday May 24, 2019 on the governorship, national and state assembly elections held in Zamfara State, the Independent National Electoral Commission held an emergency meeting to consider the court’s decision.

The commission will meet again tomorrow (today), Saturday May 25, 2019 to further deliberate on the issues arising from the said judgment, while the final decision on the matter will be communicated to the public on Monday, May 27, 2019.”

The Supreme Court had on Friday nullified the victory of the All Progressives Congress candidates in the 2019 General Elections held in Zamfara State.

In a unanimous judgment of a five-man panel led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the apex court declared the first runners-up in the elections in the state as the winners of all the offices earlier declared to have been won by the APC and its candidates.

The APC had earlier been declared the winner of the governorship election as well as the three senatorial seats, seven House of Representatives seats and the 24 state House of Assembly seats contested for in the February 23 and March 11, 2019 elections in the state. The APC won all the 36 elective offices available in the state.

But with the Friday’s pronouncement of the apex court, the party lost all the 36 positions to the Peoples Democratic Party, which had come second in the various positions.

The outgoing Governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, by virtue of the Supreme Court judgment lost the senatorial seat which he had won to the PDP and its candidate.

The apex court, by the judgment on Friday, settled the long-drawn political dispute in two judgments delivered on two appeals filed by the APC and the candidates of the party fielded in the 2019 General Elections in the state.

The appeals were marked, SC/377/ 2019 and SC/378/2019.

Justice Paul Galinje, who read the lead judgments in the two appeals, upheld the March 25, 2019 verdict of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the APC did not conduct primary elections for the 2019 General Elections and had no candidate for any of the polls in the state.

He described the votes polled by the APC candidates in the elections as wasted, adding that the party and the candidates with the next highest votes and the required spread in the various elections were the valid winners.

The apex court, through Justice Galinje’s judgment, awarded a cost of N10m against the APC and its co-appellants in one of the two appeals decided on Friday in favour of the Independent National Electoral Commission and some 140 respondents belonging to the Senator Kabir Marafa faction of the party in the state.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Galinje held, “I find and hold that the 1st appellant (APC) never conducted primary elections. I come to the conclusion that this appeal as constituted has no merit.”

Issuing consequential orders which flowed from the pronouncement that the APC did not conduct primary elections, Justice Galinje held, “For avoidance of doubt, the party that had no candidate in the 2019 General Elections cannot win.

“This makes all the votes credited to the candidates of the 1st appellant (APC) in the 2019 General Elections in Zamfara State wasted votes.

“For that reason, it is hereby ordered that candidates of the parties other than the 1st appellant that polled the highest number of votes and the required spread stand elected into the various offices contested for in Zamfara State in the 2019 General Elections.

“I award the cost of N10m against the appellants in favour of the 1st to 140th respondents as well as the 180th respondents and the cost shall be paid by the appellants.”

Justice Galinje also cautioned politicians against the practice of not playing by the rules.

He said, “Democratic system in this country was borrowed from the United States of America.  Those from whom we borrowed have forged ahead and developed into an economically viable nation.’’

He regretted that “for this our dear country” out of the ignorance or mischief of politicians, Nigeria continued to be held down.

He added, “If care is not taken, the class of politicians we have today will take this country back to stone age which will consume all of us. I urge all to always play the game according to the rules.”

Other members of the apex court’s panel, Justices Muhammad (Acting CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, John Okoro, and Uwani Abba-Aji, agreed with the lead judgments delivered by Justice Galinje.

The legal battle was between the factions of Yari and Senator Kabir Marafa in the APC in Zamfara State.

The Yari faction, represented in court by Mahmud Magaji (SAN), had maintained that the party conducted valid primaries in the state; but the Marafa faction, represented by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) claimed otherwise.

Judgment unsettles APC governors

The camp of the All Progressives Congress governors was unsettled on Friday as the news of the Supreme Court, which nullified the party’s victories in Zamfara State filtered into it, investigations by one of our correspondents had shown.

The governors had planned to address a press conference to unveil its new Chairman, who is the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu.

Bagudu was elected as the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, which is made up of governors elected on the platform of the APC at the meeting of the governors held in Abuja on Thursday night at the Imo governor’s lodge.

Bagudu, whose election was unanimous, replaced the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, whose tenure will expire on May 29.

Before the judgment was delivered, the APC governor had invited journalists to its Nelson Mandela, Asokoro, office where the new chairman of the forum would be unveiled.

Bagudu had driven to the venue of the briefing with the intention of welcoming his colleagues when the news of the highest court in the land broke.

He was said to have called his colleagues on phone that instead of coming to the Forum’s secretariat for the meeting, they should proceed to the Zamfara State Governor’s Lodge, also in Asokoro where they met the outgoing governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari.

Yari, who recently relinquished the position of the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, was also a victim of the judgment.

It was gathered that the governors consoled Yari and asked him to take the judgment as an act of God.

A source close to the secretariat of the APC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We were all shocked when the judgment came. That was why we had to divert all the governors to the Zamfara Governor’s Lodge where we met Yari.

“None of us thought the judgment could go that way. It was a shock to us. We have lost the entire state to the opposition and that is so painful.

“We lost the governorship position, three senators, about seven seats in the House of Representatives and all the members in the state House of Assembly.

“So, by the time we finished with Yari, it was almost time for the Jumat.  That was why the event couldn’t hold.”

Jubilation in Zamfara, Abuja

Following the Supreme Court judgment, there has been jubilation in Zamfara State

Residents of Gusau, the state capital, mostly youths, trooped to the streets in their large numbers, displaying posters of the Peoples Democratic Party.

A cross-section of the jubilant crowd described the Supreme Court verdict as victory for the rule of law.

While the members of the APC were mourning somewhere in Abuja, the reverse was the case with the National Working Committee members of the PDP as they congratulated one another.

The news of the judgment was said to have come to them while they were meeting to deliberate on some issues affecting the party.

While one of the meeting was ongoing, one of our correspondents gathered that the party’s governorship candidate in Zamfara State, Bello Matawale, sent words to the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, that he was on his way to greet him and other NWC members.

Matawale was accompanied to the residence of the PDP chairman by his deputy, Mahdi Aliyu, and some senatorial, House of Reps and state House of Assembly candidates of the party.

With joy and laughter, the NWC members congratulated Matawale for the victory.

I’ll rule with fear of God, says Matawale

Meanwhile, in a short interview with one of our correspondents, Matawale has promised to rule the state with the fear of God, adding that he will not be vindictive.

He said, “The will of Allah will always prevail. I’m a servant of the people and I will rule with the fear of Allah.  It is God that gives power and takes it.

“No one should therefore arrogate any power to himself. So, when you find yourself in any position of authority, serve with the fear of Allah. Know that whatever has beginning will always have an end.”

Justice has prevailed –Atiku

In his reaction to the judgment, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, on Friday commended the Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law and doing justice by declaring the PDP as the winner of all the elections in the state.

“Nothing is as pleasing to the ears of believers as justice being served in the holy month of Ramadan,” Atiku said in a statement signed by his media adviser, Paul Ibe.

He commended the judges for “putting aside the interests of the powerful and upholding the interests of Nigeria and Nigerians.”

“God first, Nigeria second, must be our priority as trustees of the people. When justice prevails, the people rejoice, chains are broken, freedom is multiplied and society is enriched,” he added.

He said he was hopeful that the Supreme Court and “our Lord Justices will let Lady Justice have full reign in other petitions that will come before them,” and that good conscience, fear of God and the rule of law will prevail.

Sweet, bitter victory for democracy, says Marafa

In his reaction, the All Progressives Congress member representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Kabir Marafa, hailed the Supreme Court judgment.

Marafa, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), described the verdict as sweet-bitter but a huge victory for democracy, Zamfara State and the country as a whole.

The APC federal lawmaker, in a statement on Friday, said, “Today’s judgment is a victory for democracy, triumph of truth over falsehood and redeemer of the integrity of the judiciary. As we all know, the APC was unable to conduct primaries in Zamfara”

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