The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will today hold an emergency meeting in Abuja to study the Supreme Court judgement which voided the victory of all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress APC) in Zamfara State in the National Assembly, governorship, and House of Assembly in the 2019 general elections.
Although the Supreme Court declared the runners-up irrespective of their political parties as the winners of the elections, INEC said yesterday that it would meet today to study the verdict and act as appropriate. The commission further said that its decision on the matter would be announced on Monday because it would examine the materials used for the elections.
Among the poll materials that will engage INEC’s attention at today’s meeting is Form UC40G, which contains the cancelled and invalid votes in the election.
The commission said that even though it would obey the judgement of the Supreme Court on Zamfara APC, it would not rush to issue certificates of return to the runners-up without considering whether they meet the constitutional two-thirds requirement of the total valid vote cast.
Consequently, INEC pronouncement has caused anxiety in the state, especially in the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who candidate emerged the runner-up in the governorship election.
In a swift reaction to the apex judgement, PDP governorship candidate, Alhaji Bello Muhammad Matawallen Maradun, congratulated the people of the state over the ruling and urged them to remain calm. He said that he was preparing to form the next government in the state.
INEC said that since the apex court had declared the votes of the state APC in the 2019 general elections invalid, it would subtract the votes of the party and see whether the candidates who came second in the elections got the required votes to be announced winners.
In the case of the governorship election, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that a winner must score two-thirds of the total number of the votes cast in the election.
INEC sources told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the commission won’t issue a certificate of return to any candidate in Zamfara in respect of the 2019 general election unless the APC invalid votes were first removed in line with the Supreme Court judgement.
One of the sources said that with the decision of the apex court, INEC would go back to Zamfara, remove the invalid votes of the APC before announcing those that meet the requirements to be declared winners.
This implies that after the votes of the APC are removed, if the runner-up does not meet the constitutional requirement, INEC may conduct fresh election for that seat.
He said: “That is why the commission is meeting tomorrow (today) to discuss some of these issues. After the meeting, the commission will follow its procedures and the Supreme Court judgement by removing the invalid votes of the APC before determining who qualifies to get a certificate of return.
“I can tell you that this process may extend till Monday because calculations will be involved and Form UC40G that deals with the issue of cancelled and invalid votes will be checked to ensure the real winners that is, those who truly meet the requirements,” the source said.
The Supreme Court had ruled yesterday that the APC did not hold valid party primaries as required by law. It held that all the votes scored by the party in the said elections were wasted votes and declared that the candidates of political parties with the second highest valid votes and the requisite spread should be declared as having been elected.
In a statement issued by INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voters Education Committee, Barr Festus Okoye, he said that even though the commission met yesterday, it will meet again today to further deliberate on the issues arising from the judgment.
Okoye said: “The final decision on the matter will be communicated to the public on Monday, May 27, 2019.”
But speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend on why the commission is holding a series of meetings before issuing certificates of return to the second highest scorer in the election, Okoye said that INEC must first remove the invalid votes of the APC before taking a final decision.
He said: “We have to see the list of all the candidates that participated in the last election and their scores. We will see those that came second in the election and subtract the total invalid votes and see if they meet the two-thirds requirement.
“Again, we will need to see the judgement and extract the people that are having the highest number of votes that meet the requirement. We are going to obey the judgement of the Supreme Court. We will do what the court says and follow our procedures. Nigerians will soon know our stand,” Okoye said.
Before the 2019 general elections, INEC wrote to the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, informing him that the party should not expect to field candidates in Zamfara because the commission’s officials were in the state but primary elections were not conducted.
Oshiomhole wrote back to INEC insisting that primary elections were conducted. Thereafter the party went to court to contest the commission’s decision.
Two Federal High Courts in Abuja and Zamfara State gave conflicting judgements on the participation of the APC in the two strands of elections scheduled for February 23 and March 9, 2019.
While the Federal High Court ruled that the APC having failed to conduct party primaries cannot field candidates in the election, the state High Court cleared the party to field candidates because it conducted valid party primaries.
However, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division, on February 21, 2019 set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, for lack or want of jurisdiction on the part on the lower court.
This in effect meant that the Zamfara State High Court‘s decision that the APC can field candidates for the National Assembly, governorship and state Assembly elections were valid and subsisting order and INEC included the party in the ballot.
Some aggrieved APC members went to the Supreme Court after the general elections and got a favourable judgement yesterday as the apex court ruled that APC did not conduct primary elections in the state.
The state chapter of the PDP and the Campaign Office of Matawalle congratulated the people of the state for their patience and resilience.
In a statement issued by his aide, Umar Faruk, he said that the Matawalle Campaign Organisation wishes to extend our gratitude to the Almighty Allah and the entire people of Zamfara State, especially the PDP supporters for their patience and good conduct while the court case lasted. Today’s decision of the Supreme Court is a great testimony that truth and patience will always prevail. “
Matawalle and the PDP commended the judiciary for standing up to the truth in the discharge of its responsibility.
Except INEC acted to the contrary, Matawalle, by the Supreme Court verdict has automatically become the governor-elect as he came second in the last governorship election in the state.
Matawalle said that “the judgement is a testimony that the judiciary has remained fair in the discharge of its responsibilities.
“l wish to congratulate the people of Zamfara State especially PDP supporters for remaining peaceful and orderly throughout the time we were seeking redress in the courts.
“l want to assure you that we will not fail in this the confidence reposed in us and l want to appeal to all people in the state to continue to be law-abiding as we transit into the new government,” he said.
The outgoing deputy governor, Mallam Ibrahim Wakkala, commended the Supreme Court and described its judgement as a landmark achievement for the nation’s democracy.
Wakkala who contested for the governorship position but lost out because he was not supported by Governor Abdulaziz Yari later joined seven other APC aspirants to form a faction which fought the governor and his supporters on the legal turf.
Also, commenting on the court judgement, APC factional chairman, Alhaji Sirajo Mai Katako, described the court decision as a good for Nigeria’s democracy
He said: “We don’t care about who will be the governor and from which party he is; our concern is justice and fairness. People should be allowed to have their choice on who will govern them in various political offices.”
The secretary of the PDP Campaign Committee, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu lauded the Supreme Court judgement, saying it was victory for democracy.
According to him, the verdict had been expected as it was glaring to everybody in the state that APC failed to conduct primaries or adopt consensus candidates for the 2019 elections.
“The conduct of primaries by political parties is a cardinal requirement and failure to do so attracts this kind of verdict from the court,” he added.
Already, the Zamfara State police command has deployed men and officers to the streets to prevent any breakdown of law and order because of the Supreme Court judgement which nullified the election of all the APC candidates in the state.
The police public relations officer, Mr. Mohammed Shehu, said that “we have deployed enough officers and men in both uniform and plainclothes in all the major towns to ensure law and order are maintained.”
The judgement was greeted with wide jubilation in Gusau, the state capital as residents flooded the streets. Motorists and motorcyclists chanted “Sai Matawalle, Sai Matawalle” as they criss-crossed the major streets and highways.
The celebration also took place in the headquarters of the 14 local government areas in the state.
… Supreme Court Dismisses PDP’s Petition Against Fayemi
There was also wild celebrations in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital yesterday as news filtered into the town that Governor Kayode Fayemi won at the Supreme Court on the petition filed against his re-election in 2018 by the PDP.
The apex court yesterday dismissed the PDP governorship candidate, Prof. Kolapo Olusola’s appeal and declared Fayemi as the winner of the July 14, 2018 governorship poll.
Fayemi had defeated Olusola in the election, but he approached the Election Petitions Tribunal, claiming that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rigged the election in Fayemi’s favour.
Olusola lost at both the tribunal and Appeal Court before proceeding on appeal to the apex court.
It was a double celebration at the Government House as Fayemi on Wednesday emerged the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).
Addressing his supporters and admirers yesterday in Ado Ekiti, Fayemi extended the olive branch to Olusola, whom he urged to join him in developing Ekiti State.
According to him, “Prof. Olusola Eleka is an illustrious Ekiti person. Though I am not close to him, but with what I have heard and read about him, he is an accomplished Ekiti man.
“He had served this state as a deputy governor and having pursued his case to the Supreme Court, he should forget about party. He should come to Ekiti party, that is where we all belong so that we can serve our people better and in a more beneficial way,” he said.
Fayemi described both his appointment as NGF chairman and his court’s victory as signals of good things to come for Ekiti and the southwest.
“I have to give glory to God for finally bearing testimony to the fact that the election that brought me into office was credible and that the primary of my party was the best ever conducted by any party in the history of our nation,” he said.
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