¦Despite Wednesday night’s decision by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, barring it from fielding candidates in Zamfara State, All Progressives Congress, APC, has said it would not only field candidates in Zamfara State but also in Rivers State where its fate is also a subject of litigation.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, who stated this, yesterday, in Abuja, also added that the appellate court decision on the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has vindicated President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the matter.
He said: “Let me add that in Kano State, PDP did not do any primaries and yet today, INEC is not saying anything regarding PDP and all the candidates submitted for PDP in Kano were accepted.
‘’This is a fact that nobody can deny but we will not go to town to start pilloring INEC, this is a very critical institution to the success of any election.
“We heard that INEC is relying on the fact that courts of equal jurisdiction have given conflicting judgements. We can understand that. What it thus means is that it is not over and then we will continue to take steps.
“We are very certain, we did the right thing. The primaries held, INEC was not satisfied with that but it is our right to field candidates and we would follow up all the legal means to ensure that our candidates stand for elections in this 2019 general elections in Zamfara. Same situation for Rivers.
“It also shows for people who are discerning to ask that question, this is supposed to be the APC that INEC is or ought to be working for?
And this is what we are going through in the hands of INEC that PDP has repeatedly claimed is put in place to rig elections for APC.
“May I remind all of us that we had primaries in Zamfara, which was affected by conflicts but the process allows for three different options.
You could go for indirect, which is an electoral college, you could go with direct that allows every card-carrying member of the party to vote for their chosen candidates and then thirdly, you could go by consensus.
‘’We have the right under the constitution to exhaust these options. We did so.”, he said of the party’s situation in Zamfara and Rivers states.
He added that the decision of the Court of Appeal to okay the trial of Justice Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal has vindicated his suspension from office by President Buhari.
He said: “Recall that when the President, acting on the directive of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, announced the suspension of Onnoghen, some opposition parties wrongly alleged an illegal action by the President and viewed the CCT as lacking jurisdiction.
‘’But the Court of Appeal had in a unanimous decision read by Justice Abdul Aboki dismissed the request brought by Onnoghen asking for a stay of proceedings in his asset declaration trial at the CCT ostensibly clearing any doubt about the competence of the CCT and the procedure that led to the suspension.
“The APC had in the wake of the suspension, insisted that the rule of law be upheld and allowed to thrive while Justice Onnoghen submit himself to the law.
“The Appeal Court ruling has further advertised the credentials of President Buhari as an unrepentant believer in the rule of law, due process and justice. Contrary to claims by the opposition and a section of the Nigerian Bar Association that the suspended CJN is a victim of persecution and that the law is not being followed in his arraignment.
“The Appeal Court has now confirmed that Onnoghen’s trial at the CCT is, indeed, within the confines of the law.
His suspension is, therefore, not prejudice as being painted in some quarters since it was based on an order lawfully issued by the CCT.
“The suspended CJN had adjudicated on many cases where he ruled that only the CCT is exclusively empowered to entertain cases on asset declaration.
It may be tempting for a weak and self-serving leader to ignore these legal precedents, but not President Buhari.
He is ever truthful, fearless, fair and just and a stickler to rules.
“The APC is calling on the opposition to subject their criticisms to constitutional tests before polluting the public space with remarks, largely a product of political experience capable of bringing an incorruptible President to opprobrium. Issues of law cannot thrive where emotions and sentiment are the driving force.”
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has reserved ruling in appeal brought before it by APC, seeking to stay the execution on the judgement of the Federal High Court, which barred it from fielding candidates for the 2019 elections.
The APC and Tonye Cole, the embattled governorship candidate and other candidates of the party had through their counsels, Prince Azundah and Chimenem Jerome, challenged the ruling of Kolawole Omotosho, of Federal High Court, which stopped the APC from fielding them as candidates for the February 16 and March 2, elections.
The three-man appeal panel, led by Justice Ali Gumel, adjourned till February 4, to deliver its decision after counsel for the two factions of the APC, Henry Bello for Abe, and Prince Azundah for APC, in the state adopted their written addresses.
However, Jerome, counsel for the APC governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly candidates, expressed optimism that the names of the APC candidates for the election would be shortlisted alongside those of other parties.
However, INEC had insisted Wednesday night on its earlier decision to bar the ruling APC from fielding candidates for state and federal elections in Zamfara State.
The commission, which had earlier said it would release the final list of governorship and state assembly candidates, yesterday, however, stated this late Wednesday in a statement by Festus Okoye, one of its National Commissioners and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee.
The statement read: “The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, met today (Wednesday), January 30, 2019 and among other things approved the final list of candidates for the governorship, state Assembly and FCT Area Council elections scheduled to hold on March 2, 2019.
‘’On the whole, there are 1,066 candidates for the governorship elections, 14,583 for the state Assembly elections and 806 for the FCT Area Council elections broken down into 105 chairmanship candidates and 701 councillorship candidates.
“The commission reviewed the situation concerning All Progressives Congress, APC, fielding candidates for the governorship and state Assembly elections in Zamfara State.
“Commission noted that there are two court judgements on the matter, one from a state High Court in Gusau and the other from a Federal High Court in Abuja. The former judgement clearly said APC conducted primaries in Zamfara State, contrary to the position of the commission.
‘’On the other hand, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that the party did not conduct valid primaries and, therefore, is ineligible to field candidates for the elections.
“The commission would like to reaffirm its commitment to obeying all court judgements, even when it disagrees with them.
However, these are clearly two contradictory judgements delivered by two courts of coordinate jurisdiction on the same day.
“Consequently, the commission has decided to maintain its original position that the party in question did not conduct primaries and, therefore, in line with Section 87 of the Electoral Act 20l0 (as amended), is not eligible to field candidates for the National Assembly, governorship and state Assembly elections in Zamfara State.
“Commission also reviewed various aspects of its preparedness for the 20l9 general elections and expressed satisfaction with the overall preparations for the elections.
A meeting with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners will take place next week to further review the state of preparedness of each state.”
Responding to the development yesterday, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of PDP, said the stance of INEC in the two states was in line with court judgement and was welcomed by the party.
He, however, disclosed that he was aware of alleged moves by the APC leadership to abuse court processes to field candidates, particularly in Zamfara.
“INEC stance in the two states is in line with court judgements, which are also in line with the position of the law.
But we are also hearing of plans by the APC to abuse court processes to achieve their aims particularly in Zamfara and we are waiting and watching for what INEC will do,” Mr. Ologbondiyan said.
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