The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it would wait for the directive of the Supreme Court before it could make a final decision on the contentious primary elections of the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) in Zamfara State.
A Zamfara State High Court had recognised the primary elections that produced governorship, state and National Assembly candidates held by the APC faction loyal to Governor Abdulaziz Yari and ordered INEC to accept the party candidates for the elections.
But the Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto on Monday set aside the judgment, thus nullifying the primary elections that produced the governor-elect and other winners of the 2019 general election.
In obedience to the court order, INEC suspended the presentation of Certificates of Return to the governor, deputy governor and state House of Assembly members-elect on the platform of the APC in the state.
The electoral body also added that the judgment of the Court of Appeal would also impact the Certificates of Return already issued to senators and House of Representatives members-elect from the state.
However, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, said Wednesday that it would be futile and counterproductive to speculate on what the Supreme Court will or may do in a case before it.
He explained that each matter has its own peculiarities and dynamics, adding that the Supreme Court is empowered to make consequential orders that nobody may anticipate.
According to him, “INEC will not speculate on a matter before the Supreme Court. The commission will rather wait and enforce the orders and judgments of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the final court in Nigeria and policy court.”
Okoye stressed that the commission would prefer to wait and abide by the judgment of the Supreme Court, stressing that the commission does not have the power to pick and choose but will abide and enforce the judgments of the court.
He stated: “Academically and constitutionally speaking, the Supreme Court may order the swearing in of the candidates of the parties that came second in the election and regard the votes scored by APC as wasted votes.
“The Supreme Court may also order that only the candidates that meet the constitutional requirement of having scored majority of lawful votes and the necessary spread should be sworn in. The Supreme Court may also affirm the judgment of the lower court.
“The court may also insist that the matter in question is no longer a pre-election matter but a matter subject to Election Petitions Tribunal. There are so many variables and dynamics and it is prudent and rational to wait for the court to decide.
“The commission is not infallible. The commission’s decisions and opinions are subject to the interpretative jurisdiction of the court. And the commission has no choice but to abide with the said decisions.”
On the supplementary governorship election that would be held in Adamawa State, the national commissioner added that the commission was determined to deliver on its mandate, assuring that it was ready for the election.
He said that the commission has taken on board the lessons from the conduct of other supplementary elections and is putting in measures to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.
Okoye said: “It is selective amnesia to use the Kano supplementary elections as the only yard stick for measuring the success of the supplementary elections. We conducted supplementary elections in Benue State. We conducted in Sokoto State, Plateau and Bauchi States.
“The commission should be commended for its expeditious resolution of the electoral challenge in Bauchi State and for conducting good election in other states. We will continue to work assiduously to deliver good elections.”
Okoye revealed that the electoral commission has delivered the sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the conduct of the election to the various local governments.
He added that it has met with the security agencies and they have promised to act professionally and ethically, noting that it has also held meetings of the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on election security and a stakeholders meeting.
Okoye assured that the commission would continue to maintain its neutrality and guard its independence in the conduct of elections.
He said: “For the election, only party agents will be allowed to observe the elections. The commission will not permit the presence of party supervisors in any polling unit.
“Furthermore, only persons with Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) domiciled within a polling unit will be allowed near a polling unit. The commission will not disrupt the school system in Adamawa State and polling units in schools will be located outside the precincts of the schools and the commission will provide canopies.”
Meanwhile, INEC has released a schedule of activities for the completion of the outstanding election in Rivers State.
The electoral body stated that the process for the election earlier suspended on March 10, 2019, will resume with stakeholders’ meeting on March 30.
According to a statement signed by INEC’s Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Edwin Enabor, resumption of collation and announcement will hold between April 2 and 5.
The statement added that stakeholders’ meeting is scheduled for Saturday, March 30, while the resumption of collation and announcement of results will hold between April 2 and 5. Supplementary elections will be conducted where necessary on April 13, results will be announced between April 13 and 15 while Certificates of Return will be issued on April 19.
INEC affirmed that the scheduled exercise was a result of the careful auditing by the fact-finding team set up by the commission to review the circumstances that led to the suspension of the process.
The electoral commission appealed to all the residents of the state to embrace the resumed electoral activities to conclude the 2019 general election.