By Mike Odiakose
With the closure of the window by INEC for political parties to substitute names of candidates there are indications that some powerful forces in the presidency are putting pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to reverse its decision over the rejected lists of candidates from Zamfara state.
Nigerian Pilot gathered at the weekend that INEC officials have been resisting the pressure from the presidency, insisting that the Court should resolve the issue since the APC has already taken the matter to court.
According to reliable sources, the Presidency and APC national leadership is worried that the party will lose all elective position in Zamfara state even without casting any ballot in a state that is its traditional stronghold.
There are also fears that if the APC candidates are not allowed to participate in the election, they may be lukewarm in campaigning for President Buhari in the state since they have nothing at stake.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that the APC dragged the INEC, to court seeking an order to permit its candidates to participate in the forthcoming general elections in Zamfara State.
The party, in the suit it lodged before the Federal High Court in Abuja, further applied for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain INEC from giving effect to the content of a letter with Reg. No. lNEC/SEC/654/1/330 and dated October 9, which foreclosed it from presenting candidates in Zamfara for failing to conduct its primaries within the stipulated time.
The court has fixed December 11 to commence hearing on the matter.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu okayed the case for hearing after she joined the governorship aspirant of APC in the state, Senator Garba Marafa and a senatorial aspirant, Alhaji Siraju, as well as seven other chieftains of the party, as defendants in the suit.
Specifically, APC, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018, prayed the court to declare that INEC’s letter purporting to exclude the party from presenting and submitting the list of its candidates for the forthcoming election in Zamfara state scheduled for 2019, is null, void, ultra vires and of no effect having regards to the provisions of sections 31(1) and 86(2), (3) and (4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“A declaration that by virtue of section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and section 31(1) of the Electoral Act (as amended), the defendant lacks the power to refuse to collect the name of the plaintiff’s candidates for Zamfara state presented and to be submitted to it not later than 60 days before the election scheduled for February 2019.
In October INEC declared that it will not accept APC list of candidates from Zamfara state as the party did not meet the deadline for the conduct of primaries.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, maintained the commission’s position during a two-day validation workshop titled “Study on the cost of elections in ECOWAS Region” in Abuja.
“We have issued a statement on Zamfara and nothing has changed. We stand by the statement that we issued,” he said.
Yakubu re-emphasised that the deadline for submission of party candidates’ name to the commission was Oct. 18.
INEC had informed the ruling APC in a leaked memo that it would not be allowed to field candidates for elective positions in Zamfara in the 2019 elections.
The commission’s acting Secretary, Okechukwe Ndeche, in a letter to the APC said that the party was barred from fielding candidates for governorship, national assembly and state assembly elections.
The commission said this was because APC failed to comply with Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act of 2010.
Parties, according to the act, were expected to comply with the timetable and schedule of INEC, which says that the conduct of primaries must be held between Aug. 18 and Oct. 7.
INEC said it received reports from its Zamfara office, indicating that no primaries were conducted in the state “notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilised and deployed.”