J. S. Okutepa SAN

*Says that even our courts have no power and juridiction to decide political questions
*Says INEC Played To The Public Gallery Prematurely
*Says Only The Court Can Decide Whether A Candidate Fielded By A Political Party Is Qualified Or Not

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, J.S Okutepa, SAN has faulted the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) disqualifying APC from fielding candidates in Zamfara State, stating that, the Commission had acted ultra vires and outside its constitutional and statutory powers.

Quoting plethora of cases and of course, an article credited to Bar. M A Magaji, SAN, in support, the learned silk buttressed that INEC acted outside its statutory laid down powers.

An Excerpt reads thus:

”By virtue of Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date of appointed for a general election under the provisions of the Electoral Act, submit to the INEC, in the prescribed form, the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, provided INEC shall not reject or disqualify candidate(s) for any reason whatsoever. For ease of reference the Section 31 (1) Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provide thus: Section 31(1) Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date of appointed for a general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed forms, the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, provided the Commission shall not reject or disqualify candidate(s) any reason whatsoever.

”From the forgoing provision which INEC arbitrarily and capriciously relied on in disqualifying APC from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for the 2019 elections, APC has not later than 60 days before the date of general election under the provisions of the Electoral Act, submit to the INEC, in the prescribed form, the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.

The general Election time table as published by the INEC on their official website is on 16th February, 2019 and 2nd March, 2019 for Presidential/National Assembly Elections and Governorship and State Assembly/FCT Council election respectively.

”Now APC, has over 100 days from today, 10th October, 2018 which the INEC purportedly disqualified them from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for 2019 elections.

The Commission (INEC), also relied on provision of Section 87 Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to purportedly disqualified APC from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for 2019 elections. Section 87 of the Act stated thus: “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions”

”In quick response, the highest court of the land, Supreme court in the case of Shinkafi v. Yari (2016) 7 NWLR, Pt 1511, p. 340, at 374-375 paras F-A; and 414- 415 paras G-B, (per Onnoghen CJN) settled this kind of issues and held that The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) does not state that any party which fails to give notice of its congress etc to INEC would forfeit the right to field a candidate…”

From the authority of Shinkafi v. Yari (Supra) and provision of Section 31 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) INEC lacks all power and authority to disqualified APC from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for 2019 elections.

The purported disqualification of APC done by INEC on 10th October, 2018 is illegal, void, unknown to law and unconstitutional and against the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended)”.

Speaking further, the learned silk said that apart from the fact that INEC lacks the power to do what it has purported to have done, it was premature and was playing to public gallery to bar a political party from fielding candidates in an election when that party has the ample time to submit the names of its sponsored candidates.

”I think apart from the fact that INEC lacks the power to do what it has purported to have done, it was premature and was playing to public gallery to bar a political party from fielding candidates in an election when that party has the ample time to submit the names of its sponsored candidates.

”The provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended is clear as to who has right to complain about non-conduct or improper conduct of primary. It is the candidate who participated in the said primary and not INEC. In any case sponsorship of candidates for elections is a political question and INEC in my view clearly does not have the powers to decide political questions,” he added.

He also added that even our courts have no power and juridiction to decide political questions, and that only the court has the power to decide whether a candidate fielded by a political party is qualified to run for that office or not. He, therefore concluded appreciating the desire of INEC to ensure that parties play the game of politics according to the rules of the game, stressing that it is not all voilation of the rules that can end up in red card being shown as INEC seemed to have done in the case of Zamfara.

TheNigerialawyer (TNL) recalls that the Independent National Electoral Commission had disqualified APC from fielding any candidate for the 2019 Election, claiming that the deadline it gave for parties to conduct and concluded their parties primaries has elapsed and that APC did not conduct its primary in Zamfara State within the stipulated time

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