…Says APC had no candidate in 2019 polls in Zamfara
…Affirms Fayemi’s electoral victory
Andrew Orolua, Abuja
The Supreme Court on Friday held that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had no valid candidates in Zamfara State in all the elective positions in 2019 general election and consequently declared all the votes scored by the party as wasted votes.
In a unanimous judgement, the apex court upheld the decision of the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the APC did not conduct valid primary elections that would have enabled the emergence of valid nominated candidates for any elective positions in the state.
A five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, held that the APC which had no candidates cannot be declared winner of the elections.
Consequently, the court ordered that candidates of other parties with the highest number of valid votes cast during the general election and with the required spread stands elected in the various political offices in Zamfara State.
The judgment affected the governor- elect- Bello Mutawalle, 24 members of state House of Assembly, 3 Senators and 7 seats of the House of Representatives that were won by APC in Zamfara State in the elections conducted on February 23 and March 11, 2019.
Those affected by the judgment include the outgoing governor of the Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who was elected to the Senate on the platform of the APC.
APC had won all the offices contested for in the 2019 election with the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidates, placing first runners-up in the polls.
Justice Paul Galinje, who read the lead judgment of the apex court, maintained that the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the APC did not file any eligible candidate in the 2019 general election in Zamfara State. The court consequently dismissed the two appeals on Zamfara State APC primary election.
“I find that the lower court was right in holding that there were no primary elections in Zamfara State.
“The appeal had no merit and it should be dismissed. It is accordingly dismissed. The party that has no candidate cannot be declared a winner of the election.
Therefore, all votes that are credited to such party is deemed as wasted voted. Candidates of parties with the highest number of valid votes cast with the required spread stands elected in Zamfara”, the Supreme Court held.
The apex court awarded a cost of N10m against the APC.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has admonished politicians to always play the game by the rules and not to engage in acts capable of taking the country back to the stone age.
Justice Galinje, who gave the admonition, specifically charged politicians to always respect the constitution of their various political parties rather than resorting to self help.
The dismissed appeals were direct fallout of the judgment of the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal that set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court allowing the APC to field candidates in the 2019 elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, in October last year, said it would not allow the APC to field candidates in Zamfara State because the party failed to conduct primaries before the deadline stipulated.
However, a High Court sitting in Gusau, Zamfara State, ruled that the ruling APC actually conducted primaries in the state and should be allowed to present candidates for the electoral contest.
The judgment followed a suit with suit number ZMS/GS/52/2018, filed by Sanusi Liman, Dan Alhaji and 37 others vs APC and 143, who approached the court to compel the APC and INEC to accept the results of the party’s primaries election in the state conducted on October 7, 2018, among others.
The party said it conducted primaries which produced current governor, Abdulaziz Yari, as a senatorial candidate and his commissioner of Finance, Shehu Idris, as the governorship candidate, among others.
The court, therefore, directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept candidates from the party for Zamfara State in the elections.
The judge, Muhammad Shinkafi, who delivered the ruling, said APC conducted primaries elections on October 3 and 7, 2018.
The court also barred the national secretariat of the APC from replacing the names of those who won the primary elections of the party.
Dissatisfied, with the judgment of the state high court, a factional chieftain of the party, Senator Kabiru Marafa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) and 129 others had in their appeal filed through their counsel, Mr. Mike Ozheokome, SAN, urged the Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal to set it aside.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Tom Yakubu held that the lower court failed in its duty to properly evaluate the evidence before it.
Accordingly, the court set aside the judgment of the Zamfara State High Court which recognised the primary election that produced governorship, state and National Assembly candidates held by APC in the state and declared that INEC accept the party candidates for the elections.
Not satisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the appellants led by Sanusi Liman-Danalhaji and 139 filed the appeal at the Supreme Court wherein, they urged the apex court to set it aside.
While the first appeal was entered against Senator Kabiru Marafa and other members of his faction, the second set of appeal was filed by the APC against Sentaor Marafa and his factional members of the party.
Although, Senator Marafa, who won at the Court of Appeal, had equally filed a cross- appeal at the Supreme Court, same was withdrawn on Friday by his counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN).
In his response to the judgment, on Friday, Ozekhome said “it’s the work of God”.
Also on Friday, the Supreme Court affirmed the election of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
It dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate in Ekiti State, Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, who had challenged the decision of Court of Appeal.
In the appeal to the Supreme Court, the PDP and Olusola-Eleka, had urged the apex court through their lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN), to upturn the lower court’s judgment.
In a unanimous judgement, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, held that the appeal challenging the decision of the lower on the outcome of the poll lacked merit.
Consequently, Justice John Okoro, who read the lead judgment, affirmed the judgments of both the Ekiti State Election Petition Tribunal and the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which had both dismissed the petition challenging the outcome of the July 2018 poll.
“I am satisfied to hold that there is no merit in this appeal. It has to be noted that the two courts had dismissed the appeal.
“This court is therefore hesitant to intervene with the concurrent findings of the lower court and the tribunal.
The court can only intervene in a concurrent judgment if there is clear case of miscarriage of justice.
In the instant appeal, there is no such evidence that the findings occasioned a miscarriage of justice, ” Justice Okoro held.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Fayemi and the All Progressives Congress polled a total of 197,459 votes to defeat Olusola-Eleka and the PDP who placed second with 178,121 votes in the July 14, 2018 election.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, PDP and Olusola-Eleka had filed their petition before the Ekiti State Election Petition Tribunal which sat and delivered its judgment in Abuja.
The petitioners alleged among others in their petition that the election was marred by a lot of wrongs including non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
But the tribunal on January 28, 2019 dismissed their petition and affirmed the results declared by INEC.
The petitioners further appealed to the Court of Appeal, raising seven issues against the judgment of the tribunal.
But in the judgment of Court of Appeal, Justice Stephen Adah, who led the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, resolved all the seven issues raised against the appellants and in favour of the respondents – Fayemi, INEC and APC.
Justice Adah dismissed the case for lacking in merit, a decision the two other members of the panel – Justices Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Emmanuel Agim, consented to.