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Court of Appeal nullifies judgement reinstating APC in Zamfara State elections

THE Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto State has nullified the judgement of the Zamfara State High Court which recognised the primary elections conducted by a faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, thereby enabling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to include the party in the governorship and state assembly elections.

The judgement which was given by a three-man panel of justices − Tom  Yakubu, Tijjani Abubakar, and Jamilu Tukur − followed an appeal filed by Kabiru Marafa, a serving senator and factional leader of the APC in Zamfara State.

Justice Yakubu, who read the lead judgement, pointed out that the ruling of the State High Court was  erroneous as the court did not carry out a thorough assessment of the evidence presented before it before reaching a decision.

“I am convinced that the lower court has failed to evaluate the evidence before reaching the decision,” Yakubu said.

“The Appeal Court has power in law to access pieces of evidence on appeal, which we have done. Based on available facts, the respondents did not contradict the INEC evidence on conducting the said primary election.”

Yakubu further described the judgement as a “bitter lesson” for political parties which bypass due process.

Problem started in the Zamfara State APC when the party split into two factions following a crisis which emanated from the struggle over who would succeed the incumbent governor, Abdulaziz Yari.

Yari had endorsed his Commissioner for Finance, Mukhtar Shehu, to succeed him in office, but Marafa, the senator representing Zamfara Central Constituency, also had eyes for the position, thus leading to a clash of interest.

On several occasions, the APC primary elections ended in violence between members loyal to Yari and Marafa respectively, and parallel primaries conducted by the separate factions of the party were not recognised either by INEC or the APC National Working Committee.

This continued until the window set by INEC for the submission of names of candidates for the elections elapsed. INEC then issued a statement that the APC would not be allowed to field candidates in the election.

This was also the case with the Rivers State APC chapter.

Following INEC’s decision, the Yari faction of the Zamfara APC went to court and got a judgement which upheld the primary election conducted by the faction and subsequently ordered INEC to recognise the candidates that emerged from that process.

INEC, acting on the order of the court, reinstated the APC into the ballot for the Zamfara elections which held on March 9 and which was won by the APC, notwithstanding that the Marafa-led faction had challenged the ruling of the lower court at the Court of Appeal.

Monday’s ruling of the court of appeal which nullified the ruling of the lower court has thus presented a dilemma of sorts for INEC. It is not clear what decision the electoral commission would take, given that it has already returned Mukhtar Shehu as the governor-elect for Zamfara State.

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