Further postponement may cost APC participation in 2023 poll – INEC sources

There was apprehension in the  APC yesterday that the party  risked not participating in the 2023 presidential polls should it comply with the judgment of the Federal High Court, Kano, which states that statutory delegates are qualified to participate in the party’s presidential primary which begins tomorrow in Abuja.

By the guidelines of INEC, the list of delegates to elect the APC presidential flag bearer either tomorrow or Tuesday must be submitted to it seven days to the primary.

The list, The Nation learnt yesterday, had been submitted and for statutory delegates to participate in the primary, a fresh one will have to be compiled and resubmitted to INEC.

But highly reliable sources in the commission told this newspaper yesterday that  it is either the APC holds the primary as scheduled and submits the name of its flag bearer and other contestants on June 9 or forget about the presidential election next year.

“We will stick to our timetable for the election and we will apply the law accordingly as the need arises, ” an INEC source said yesterday.

Another source said after granting the request for extension of time, the electoral body will not accede to another request as “that will cast serious doubt on its independence as an umpire.”

Nonetheless, INEC was yesterday seeking legal advice on the judgment which was delivered within 10 days after the case was filed without the knowledge of three key defendants. The defendants were the Senate President, National Chairman of the APC, Speaker House of Representatives and INEC.

The APC is the only major party yet to wrap up its primaries. Its main rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its primary penultimate Saturday and nominated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate in next year’s presidential election.

Former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, who resigned from the PDP to join the Labour Party, has been chosen by his new party as its candidate.

If INEC turns down a fresh request by the APC, the party may either go ahead and hold the primary as scheduled or compel the court to order INEC to further grant an extension due to “extenuating circumstances.”

Three members of APC, namely Senator Mas’ud Doguwa; Habibu Sani and Biliyaminu Shinkafi, had approached the Federal High Court to determine if Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 actually bars statutory delegates from voting.

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The defendants were the Senate President, the National Chairman of the APC, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

In the judgment, Justice A. M. Liman said the section of the Act does not exclude statutory delegates from voting during primaries.

The judge said:  “That Section 84(8) cannot be interpreted to have excluded statutory delegates from voting at the convention, congress or meeting by virtue of Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 20(iv)(c) of the All Progressives Congress constitution, which allow statutory delegates to vote at convention, congress or meeting.”

Statutory delegates include President Muhammadu Buhari, VicePresident Yemi Osinbajo, sitting and former National Assembly members, serving and former governors and their deputies, National Working Committee members, state party chairmen and secretaries, local government chairmen, their deputies, councillors and party chairmen in the 774 local government areas.

National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, said yesterday that the judgment has nothing to do with the APC, as it was not joined as a defendant in the suit.

APC isn’t a party to the suit! We weren’t joined, so, we are going ahead with our Convention as scheduled,” Morka said.

Findings confirmed that although INEC has sought advice on the import of the judgment, a reliable source in the commission said it was advisable for APC to go ahead with its convention or take a risk and miss the 2023 presidential election.

The source said: “We are seeking legal consultations. But Nigerians need to know that this issue is purely a party affair, not INEC’s problem. It is better for APC to look inwards to vacate the court order, or ask for a stay of the execution of the judgment instead of missing participation in the presidential poll.

“Our deadline for the submission of list of candidates remains June 9th, 2022. We cannot waive it for any party. The alternative is to alter the 2023 poll timetable afresh. This cannot augur well for our electoral system. We hope that the Judiciary will continue to assist our electoral system.

The facts of the matter are straightforward. Three APC members went to the Federal High Court in Kano on interpretation of Section 84(8). The defendants were the National Chairman of APC, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and INEC.

“Out of the four defendants, only APC National Chairman was served the notice of the suit, the three others were not aware not talk of entering defence. Only APC entered appearance before the court. The application was heard within 10 days without some important defendants. Yet, the Friday judgment was expected to be binding.

The proper thing would have been that the court will order the plaintiffs to put other defendants on notice.

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“Even if you look at the case, the plaintiffs also joined issues with the defendants on Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution which has nothing to do with parties.

“They also raised a dust over an article in APC Constitution which deals only with election into party organs. It is trite in law that a party’s constitution cannot override the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2022. APC’s constitution is inferior to the Electoral Act.

“For the records, there is a similar case on Section 12 of the Electoral Act in which the Supreme Court has reserved ruling. The ruling may have effect on the application of Section 84(8) of the same Act.”

Asked of what INEC might do with the judgment, the source added: “We will have legal consultations on Monday. We have not been officially served. We cannot have a position on the judgment until after the consultations.

“But we can come up with an advisory on the likelihood of a party missing out of the ballot.

“For instance, it was a declaratory judgment by the Federal High Court, Kano without any specific order on the defendants on don’t do this or that. It is hanging. This is why it is dangerous to take a risk. That is the danger of delaying conduct of primaries. “

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Concerning the implications of the judgment on primaries already conducted and concluded by APC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other parties, the source said: “There is no need to review the primaries already concluded because a judgment or a law cannot be retroactive.” (The Nation)


By joshua

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