Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome

Senator Kabir Marafa’s faction of the All Progressives Congress in Zamfara State said on Friday that the Thursday judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja did not clear the party to present candidates for the general elections in the state.

The group said in a statement issued by their lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), that, “The assertion that the Court of Appeal had cleared the way for APC to participate in the polls which start on Saturday with the National Assembly elections on Saturday was false.”

The rival Governor Abdul’aziz Yari-led faction of the party in the state had celebrated the Thursday’s Court of Appeal’s verdict which set aside the earlier judgment of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on the crisis.

The Court of Appeal’s pronouncement, according to the Yari-led faction leaves the Zamfara State High Court’s judgment which upheld the primaries conducted by the APC in the state as the only subsisting court order on the crisis.

But Ozekhome said on Friday that the Court of Appeal only set aside the judgment of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction but refused to make any order asking the Independent National Electoral Commission to accept the party’s candidate.

The lawyer argued that in the absence of any specific order by the Court of Appeal, it implied that the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, validating INEC’s decision not to accept the candidates of the APC in the state succeeded in part.

Insisting that INEC was legally bound to stick to its original decision not to accept the party’s candidate, Ozekhome said there were pending appeals on the matter at the Court of Appeal in Sokoto.

He stated, “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, 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.”

INEC had insisted that it would not accommodate APC’s candidates in the forthcoming polls due to the party’s alleged failure to conduct valid primaries in the state.

The Zamfara State High Court however ruled in its judgment that the party held valid primaries, contrary to a pronouncement of the Federal High Court in Abuja, that the party did not conduct any valid primaries.

In the face of the two conflicting judgments from the courts of coordinate jurisdiction, INEC insisted that it would stick to its original position that the APC failed to conduct valid primaries in the state and therefore would not be allowed to field candidate for the polls.

The Court of Appeal’s judgment set aside the Federal High Court’s judgment on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction on Thursday.

But Ozekhome said the judgment had not permitted APC to present candidates in the state.

He added, “The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on February 21, 2019, dismissed the appeal filed by APC challenging the judgment of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu (of the Federal High Court in Abuja), 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 clearly stated that the appeal partially succeeded and went ahead to set aside the judgment of the lower court on jurisdiction only, but refused 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 Yari A.A had applied to join the case voluntarily.

“And Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in her judgment held that APC did not seek any reliefs against the second to 6th defendants” (i.e, Governor Yari and co).

“Therefore, considering the fact that Governor Yari and co did not file any counter claim or cross Appeal against the APC’s suit, she had gone ahead to hold that Yari & Co. have nothing to add to this case.”

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