Postpone Zamfara Elections, AGF Malami Tells INEC

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Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the elections involving candidates for the National Assembly in Zamfara State on Saturday.

Malami also asked that the governorship and the state House of Assembly elections slated for March 2, also be postponed in the state.

The AGF’s request was contained in a letter dated   February 13, 2019, and addressed to Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Malami in his three-page letter, with reference number MJ/DSD/03, stated that his request was predicated upon a petition he received from the law firm of M.A Mahmud & Co., which asked for the postponement of the polls following a decision by the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal in regards to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The APC has no candidate on the list for the federal and state legislative elections, as well as the governorship election after a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, had ruled that the party conducted invalid primaries in the state.

However, the Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto ruled on Wednesday that the party indeed conducted valid primaries in the state, validating the earlier judgement of a High Court of Zamfara State.

Malami, therefore, said with the judgement, INEC should postpone the elections in order to give the APC more time to put its house in order and compete at the same pace with its opponents.

The letter read: “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.”

The AGF also stated that INEC cannot continue to insist that it would not list any candidate of the APC in the upcoming general elections due to the conflicting judgements by various courts.

The Justice Minister informed the electoral commission that the Court of Appeal, being a superior court of record, has upturned the decision of the Federal High Court, adding that INEC is bound to obey such directive and accommodate APC candidates for the election.

“You may further wish to recall that In Suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018 – ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) V. INEC & 5 ORS, the Federal High Court held that the nullification of the said Zamfara APC primaries by INEC was lawful.

“However, this decision has been upturned in Appeal No CA/S/23/2019. Copy is also attached for ease of reference.
 
“In the circumstance and in consideration of the provisions of Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010, the law allows INEC the latitude and discretion to extend the time within which a political party may duly field a candidate for an election where unforeseen circumstances constrained such a party from doing so within the stipulated time frame,” the letter read.
 
Malami also argued that the Electoral Act empowers INEC to postpone elections, especially when “unforeseen circumstances” inhibits political parties to field candidates at the stipulated time.
 
The letter read: “In this particular instance, the constraining circumstances that led to the delay in fielding a candidate were caused by INEC’s refusal to comply with the Zamfara State High Court Judgment in the aforementioned suit to uphold the primaries as held.
 
“Moreover, INEC cannot foreclose the right of a political party to participate in elections without recourse to the Act. By the doctrine and principle of judicial precedence, the Appeal supersedes the Federal High Court’s Position in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018 – ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) V. INEC & 5 ORS.”

 

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