*PDP cautions electoral body against compromise
*As court nullifies Rivers’ APC primaries
*Ruling not a surprise, says Amaechi’s loyalists
By Myke Uzendu (Abuja) and Blessing Ibunge (Port Harcourt)
For falling short of the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday banned the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from fielding candidates for all elective positions in Zamfara State during the 2019 general elections.
INEC communicated the decision to the party on Wednesday through its Acting Secretary, Okechukwe Ndeche.
In the letter, INEC said the ruling party is barred from fielding candidates for the Governorship, National Assembly and state House of Assembly elections, as it failed to comply with Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act (2010).
The Act stipulates that political parties must comply with the timetable and schedule of INEC on whose authority electoral commission ordered that primaries must be done between August 18 and October 7, 2018.
INEC said it received reports from its Zamfara state office that the APC did not conduct primaries “notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilised and deployed”.
The Zamfara APC saga began when the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) dissolved the State Working Committee (SWC) led by Alhaji Lawali M. Liman.
The sacked leadership, however, claimed it returned Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris as the winner of last Wednesday’s botched governorship primary election in the state.
It also declared Governor Abdulaziz Yari as the winner of the Zamfara West Senatorial District’s primary election with a total of 166,000 votes.
However, the Maj-Gen. Abubakar Mustapha Gana-led Electoral Committee said no primaries took place in the state. The election was rescheduled for last weekend, but Governor Yari threatened to mobilise his supporters to disrupt it.
*PDP cautions INEC against compromise
Consequently, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) admonished INEC not to succumb to the antics of the APC that it could not conduct primary elections in Zamfara state, adding that doing so would be a recipe for anarchy.
In a press conference by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, on Wednesday in Abuja, the PDP said that it would not tolerate any attempt by INEC to bow to pressures and smuggle in APC candidates for the Zamfara state elections.
He said: “Our position has not changed, you remembered after our national convention that we alerted the nation that the closing date for primary and congresses was October 7, and as at that day, the Zamfara State chapter of APC had not held a singular congress to elect candidates into various positions which will be contested in the 2019 general elections.
“We warn INEC because we are aware of under-arm measures and moves by the leadership of the APC which summoned the INEC chairman and the Governor of Zamfara State to a meeting.
“We raised the alarm because we are a democratic party, and we have respect for the 1999 Constitution and all the Electoral Laws guiding our elections.
“As such, we warn that INEC must not allow itself to be subdued by the APC. For once, they must not allow any form of collusion with the APC. Since Zamfara State APC did not meet the October 7 deadline, then it means that they have no candidates for 2019 general elections.
“Our party is aware that INEC has notified the APC that it has no candidate in the 2019 election. Our appeal to INEC Is that it must not allow itself to be subdued by the APC and its leadership whether in government or in the party. If they do that, it will be a recipe for anarchy in Zamfara State”.
*Court nullifies Rivers’ APC primaries
Meanwhile, Justice Chinwendu Nwogu of the Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt nullified the recent state congresses of the APC conducted by the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree’s led faction of the party on 12th, 19th, 20th and 21st of May, 2018.
The suit was filed by 23 aggrieved APC members loyal to Senator Magnus Abe.
The judge also nullified the indirect primaries of the Governorship, State Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives and the Senate, which were conducted by the Ojukaye-led APC, stating that they were null and void.
The judgement affects the APC faction loyal to the Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi.
The court also voided all the APC elections forward executives, local government executives, and state executive committee, that arose from the purported ward congresses.
Delivering judgement in the suit filed by Ibrahim Imah and 22 others against the APC, Justice Nwogu declared that the ward congresses of Rivers APC were illegal because they were not conducted in line with the APC guidelines and constitution.
He thereby set aside all actions taken by the APC during the pendency of the suit stressing that they were unconstitutional.
Justice Nwogu declared that those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, 2018, but were unjustly excluded from participating in the Congress by the party.
He said: “The rule by might must be checked by the rule of law. We must restore the hope of the common man in the justice system”.
He stated that having studied the submissions of the parties, he was bound to make consequential orders to ensure that justice was done in the dispute.
He stated that the appeal filed by the respondents at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, to stop proceedings on the suit was rejected by the appellate court on September 21, 2018.
He added that all through the hearing, the APC filed no counter-affidavit denying the facts of the matter as presented by the applicants in the originating summons.
Nwogu said that it is trite law that facts not disputed are deemed admitted.
On the suit filed in an Abuja High Court by the other faction of the APC, Justice Nwogu declared that the court is of coordinate jurisdiction with the High Court in Port Harcourt and cannot sit in appeal over its decisions.
Before the judgment, counsel for the APC, Prince O.S.M. Azunda, moved a motion seeking to arrest the judgment but failed.
Reacting to the court verdict, Chris Finebone, the Publicity Secretary of the Amaechi-led APC, said that “the ruling did not come as a surprise”, but that “it brings to an end the collaboration between Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike to destabilise the APC in Rivers State.
“We wish to inform APC members and sympathisers of our great party in Rivers State and across Nigeria to remain calm as we have done the needful.
“Indeed, our legal team is already finalising the paperwork to file an appeal on today’s judgment and stay of execution. There is absolutely no cause for alarm”.