Oshiomhole accuses INEC of bias in APC Zamfara decision

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As court nullifies party’s Rivers State primaries, congresses

The national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of bias in taking decision to ban the party from fielding candidates for governorship, state and federal legislative elections in Zamfara state.

The commission had, following the inability of the national leadership of the party and the state government to reach a common ground on the conduct of party primaries before the October 7 deadline given by the electoral umpire said the party had forfeited presenting any candidate for the 2019 general elections.

In a letter written to the APC, signed by the Commission’s acting scribe, Okechukwu Ndeche, INEC said its decision was based on the provisions of Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

The memo titled, ‘Failure to Conduct Party Primaries in Zamfara state within the stipulated timeframe’, reads:

“Please refer to the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections released by the Commission on 9th January, 2018. You would note from the Timetable that the conduct of Party Primaries is scheduled to take place between 18th August and 7th October 2018.

“Kindly also refer to the last schedule communicated by your party to the Commission on the dates of party primaries nationwide, including Zamfara vide your letter Ref. APC/NHDQ/lNEC/19/18/51 dated 3rd October 2018.

“However, report received from our office in Zamfara state shows that no primaries were conducted by your party in the state, notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilized and deployed.

“Consequently, based on the provisions of Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidate from Zamfara State.

“For clarity, our position therefore is that the All Progressives Congress, APC, will not be fielding candidates for the Governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly elections in Zamfara State for the 2019 General elections.

“Please accept the assurances of the Commission’s highest regards”.

But in his reaction, Oshiomhole said in a letter sent to INEC on Wednesday that the party would present candidates for the elective positions in the coming elections.

In a letter personally signed by him, Oshiomhole said what the APC did was consensus rather than direct primaries as earlier scheduled.

The letter addressed to the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu reads: “We refer to your letter on the above subject matter (Ref: lNEC/SEC/654/1/330) dated 9th October, 2018 and addressed to our National Chairman. The contents of your said letter seem to conclude that no primaries were conducted by the APC in Zamfara State.

“We wish to state emphatically that nothing can be farther from the actual situation in Zamfara State. Kindly find attached a comprehensive report from the Zamfara Electoral Committee of the All Progressives Congress and signed by all the members on the conduct of primary elections for the Zamfara State held between 6th and 7th October, 2018.”

“After hours of intense horse-trading, a consensus was reached within the spirit and context of the Electoral Act and the constitution of our party on the basis of which a list was produced which was confirmed/affirmed by all delegates present. This was done in strict compliance with section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended).

“Therefore, the claim in your letter under reference that “no primaries were concluded by your party in the state, notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilized and deployed” could only be referring to their observation that actual voting did not take place, which is not the only mode prescribed for producing candidates in the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). We, therefore, affirm that indeed primaries took place in Zamfara State.

“Please also refer to the INEC’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections released by the Commission on the 9th January, 2018.

“By that timetable, all political parties are expected to submit a list of their candidates on or before 18th of October, 2018, after exhausting all internal procedures for appeals arising out of the congresses.

“As a party, we are in the process of exhausting those internal procedures before forwarding the names of our candidates to you. We are perplexed that you did not wait for us to submit the names of our candidates in Zamfara State (considering that the time within which such submission should take place has not elapsed) before raising your observation in your letter under reference.

“This is more so when we received no correspondence from the Commission at least to inquire from our party the true state of affairs in Zamfara State, in the spirit of fair hearing, before making haste to write your letter. We, however note that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not also hold primaries in Kano, but no such similar letter was written to the PDP in relation to Kano State.

“It is our contention, in the circumstance, that your letter is not only pre-emptive, but your position seems to negate the spirit of any fair hearing and is devoid of legal basis.

“Be informed, that in the spirit of due compliance with the law, we affirm that we shall, indeed, be presenting candidates for Governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly Elections in Zamfara State for the 2019 general elections before the deadline for submission of such names which has been fixed by your Commission on the 18th of October, 2018 and in line with section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

“If you raise further observations after you receive our list of candidates, we shall be glad to clarify them.”

Meanwhile, a High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State had on Wednesday, voided the election of officers and candidates of the Rivers State chapter of the party.

The ruling is a culmination of the crisis between minister of transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe over the leadership of the party.

Abe, ran a parallel congress which picked him as the governorship candidate while the Amaechi group elected Mr. Tonye Dele-Cole as candidate.

Delivering judgement in a suit filed by Ibrahim Imah and 22 others against the APC, the presiding judge, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu declared that Dele-Cole’s emergence was illegal and unconstitutional.

The New Telegraph reports that court also nullified the Rivers State APC senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly primaries conducted on the premise of the illegal ward congresses.

Nworgu noted that the ward congresses of Rivers APC were illegal because they were not conducted in line with the APC Guidelines and Constitution, just as he declared that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, 2018, but were unjustly excluded by the party.

It further nullified the ward congresses of Rivers APC on May 19, 2018, local government congresses of May 19, 2018 and state congress held on May 21, 2018.

“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,” the judge stressed.

The Judge, who said he based his judgement on the Amaechi versus INEC Matter of 2007, noted that having studied the submissions in the matter, hence decided that justice was done in the case.

He stated that the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter as an 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.

On the suit filed in an Abuja High Court by a faction of the APC, Nwogu declared that the court is of coordinate jurisdiction with  the High Court in Port Harcourt and cannot sit in appeal over it, adding that the suit filed by Ibrahim Imah, preceded that of the Abuja High Court by a faction of the Rivers State APC.

Reacting to the ruling, Rivers APC urged its members and sympathisers to remain calm.

“Nothing will happen to the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led State Working Committee (SWC) of the party, as it is further protected against any action by the perpetual injunction granted by Abuja High Court 14, presided over by Justice A. O. Musa, on September 4, 2018, in which it restrained the APC and its National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (1st and 2nd Defendants), from tampering with the mandates of the elected officials/delegates elected at the 1st Defendant’s ward, local government and state congresses in Rivers State on May 19, 20 and 21, 2018 respectively, either by nullifying, removing or in any way refusing to give effect to the outcome of the said congresses or by purporting to conduct another congress in respect of Rivers State.

“It is also important to emphasise that the entire 319 wards and 23 LGAs executives of the party in Rivers State are, by implication, protected against the ruling by any court of coordinate jurisdiction with the Abuja High Court that granted the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led Rivers State executive a perpetual injunction. We urge everyone to go about their duties without let.

“It must be mentioned that if the entire collaboration between Abe and Wike on this matter is to nullify actions the party recently took relating to its mandate, by seeking to invalidate the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led executive, such an exercise has failed. For example, the primaries so far conducted in Rivers State were done by the national executives/ national leadership of the APC and not essentially by the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led executive in Rivers State. Seeking to invalidate the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led executive cannot in anyway invalidate the primaries.

“We commend the Special Adviser to Governor Wike on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwankaudu, for his efforts at the court today (yesterday) in furtherance of the collaboration between Abe and the Rivers State government. We also commend the presiding judge for the ‘industry’ put into the process,” said the party.

Also reacting, Abe said members that were shut out of the party structure because they decided to stand for truth will fight injustice to the very end.

Also reacting, factional leader of the party, Senator Magnus Abe said those who sacrificed for the party should be respected and not taken for a ride.

He said the court had done the right thing by nullifying the primary that produced Dele-Cole, noting that it was wrong for the party to collect money from members and ask them not to run.

“When people ran to the court in protest, they attacked the court. But the court has said the truth that you cannot collect money from people and ask them not to run.

“People cannot sit in Lagos and choose a governor for Rivers people… We will show them that the people cannot be taken for granted. We will fight this, no matter how long it takes,” he stated.

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