Lawyer to the Senator Kabiru Marafa faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) confirmed on Friday that the judgment by the Court of Appeal in Abuja given on Thursday set aside the January 27, 2019 judgment by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Justice Ojukwu had, in the judgment, held among others that there was no evidence before her court that the APC in Zamfara conducted valid primaries for the purpose of producing candidates for this year’s general elections.
The decision of the Court of Appeal on Thursday, setting aside Justice Ojukwu’s judgment, for lack of jurisdiction, has since been interpreted by many to mean that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should now accept candidates from Zamfara APC, a position Ozekhome faulted.
He argued that, since the Court of Appeal only set aside the judgment, but failed to make a consequential order directing INEC to accept candidates from Zamfara APC; it implies that the earlier decision by the electoral body, refusing the party’s candidates, still stands.
In two separate documents issued on Friday – a press release and a letter to INEC Chairman (both of which he personally signed), Ozekhome urged INEC to reject candidates from Zamfara APC on the grounds that that “nothing has changed,” despite the Appeal Court judgment given in Abuja on February 21, 2019.
Ozekhome insisted that, since an appeal filed by his client, Marafa, was still pending before the Court of Appeal in Sokoto State, against the judgement of the Zamfara State High Court, which said there were valid primaries, the issue (of whether or not there were valid primaries) could not be said to have been safely resolved.
The Senior Advocate said: “Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on 21st February, 2019, dismissed the appeal filed by APC challenging the judgment of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, which had affirmed INEC’s stand that the APC did not conduct any primary election in Zamfara state and that INEC was right to have rejected APC’s candidates from Zamfara state.
“The dismissal followed an application by APC to withdraw the appeal. The application was granted and the appeal dismissed accordingly.
“Next was the cross-appeal filed by Yari & Co on jurisdiction and cause of action.
“The judgment given by the Court of Appeal today clearly stated that the appeal partially succeeded and went ahead to set aside the judgment of the lower court on jurisdiction only, but refuse to grant the cause of action component of the appeal.
“By this, the Court of Appeal refused to grant INEC any order to revive candidates of the APC from Zamfara state.
“The cross-appeal therefore partially failed because, from the onset, APC had a complaint against INEC only. Governor had applied to join the case voluntarily.
“And, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in her judgment held that ‘APC did not seek any relief against the 2nd to 6th dependents (Yari & Co) and considering that Yari and & Co didn’t file a counter claim, or cross action against APC in the suit, she now held that Yari & Co have nothing to add in this case.
“From the foregoing, it is clear that the cross-appeal by Yari and his group, before the Court of Appeal, having partially failed, becomes at best, a mere academic exercise bereft of any utilitarian value to the entire case.
“The false assertion that the Court of Appeal had cleared the way for the APC to participate in Saturday’s election is therefore a lie from the pit of hell.
“It is nothing short of the desperate minute by frustrated politician holding on any available straw to smuggle themselves Willy nilly into Saturday’s election. This cannot work.
“INEC is hereby reminded that there exists in addition to the above legal obstacles, a subsisting appeal which arose from the Zamfara State High Court judgment, which is still extant and pending before the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal , in Appeal no: CA/S/32/2019.
“In any event, the judgment of the Federal High Court, going by the judgment of the Court of Appeal still partially succeeded, since the Court of Appeal refused to make any clear mandatory orders directing INEC to receive any candidates from Yari group for the purpose of Saturday’s elections.
“INEC is therefore obligated and legally bound to stand by its earlier well founded position that APC, having never conducted any primaries in Zamfara state, have no candidates in the forthcoming elections in Zamfara state, have no candidate in the forthcoming elections in Zamfara state, except the presidential election.
“Any other act by INEC in fielding any candidates from the Governor Yari’s group or the “G-8” group will be illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever,” Ozekhome said.
He made similar argument in the letter to the Chairman of INEC.
Part of the letter reads: “Sometimes in October 2018 when INEC wrote to APC, intimating it that the commission would not be expecting any list of candidates from them, having failed to conduct primaries within the stipulated time, APC challenged that decision of the commission by filing a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, which decided the case in favour of the commission and dismissed the suit.
“Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State had cross-appealed. By the judgment of the Court of Appeal on 21st February, 2019 the intermediate court held that the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter in the first place and therefore struck it out.
“What this decision means sir, is that, as at today, there is no valid or extant decision of any court of law in Nigeria, which has set aside the well-grounded decision of INEC as contained in its letter of 9th October, 2018.
“In addition to this clear legal obstacle against any of the parties fielding any candidate in the forthcoming Zamfara elections (aside the presidential election), there also exists and still pending before the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal, a valid appeal filed by Senator Kabiru Marafa in appeal no: CA/S/33/2019.
“Consequently, by way of summary, nothing in the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja has changed the well-grounded position of maintenance of status quo of disallowing. Any of the parties to field candidates for the forthcoming elections, except the presidential election.
“The Court of Appeal, Abuja division merely struck out the suit which had been dismissed by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja with no consequential order.
“Please sir, this letter urges you to firmly maintain your earlier position so as to prevent a clear circumvent of the judicial process and an appeal that is still pending before the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal,” Ozekhome said.