The Sokoto division of the Court of Appeal, has set aside a previous ruling made by a Zamfara state High Court on a case involving the All Progressives Congress (APC) party, which allowed the party field candidates for the 2019 governorship, national and state assembly elections in the state.
Backstory: On Monday, Justice Tom Yakubu read the ruling of the panel which also comprised Justices Tijjani Abubakar and Jamilu Tukur. The judges ruled that the lower court failed to properly evaluate the evidence that had been presented before it, and as such, had failed to reach a decision based on expedient reasoning.
“Based on available facts the respondents did not contradict the INEC evidence on conducting the said primary election,” Yakubu said.
Justice Yakubu, further explained that the plaintiffs, as card carrying members of the party and aspirants in the said primary election, had the legal rights to put the case forward.
On jurisdiction, the court ruled that the case could be entertained at all levels from the FCT High Court to the State Court, as they all had jurisdiction.
The appeal had been filed by Senator Kabiru Marafa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) and 129 others with Mike Ozekhome (SAN) as lead counsel, while the defendants were Kabiru Liman-Danalhaji and 139 others who are all represented by Mahmud Magaji (SAN).
INEC had originally disqualified the APC from contesting in the poll, saying that it did not conduct primaries within stipulated time limits. A Zamfara High Court however ruled in favor of the defendants, causing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to admit the party into the election. Dissatisfied with this ruling, the plaintiffs proceeded to the Court of Appeal for redress.
What Happens Now? The APC still has the option of appealing to the Supreme Court, which it will most likely take up. However if that result is also unfavorable to the party, then it faces the unsavory prospect of losing all the seats it won in the last elections in the state. There is also the option of a political solution. If the defendants, who are members of the APC, can be convinced to drop their case, then there may be hope for the party. Recall that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had kick-started such a process before the polls.