May 21, 2024

Legal Opinion in Respect of Power of INEC to disqualify APC from fielding Candidates for 2019 General Elections by By Mahmud Magaji, SAN

INEC chairman arrest warrant

Legal Opinion in Respect Power of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Disqualifying the All Progressive Congress (Apc) from Fielding Candidates for Elective Positions in Zamfara State for the 2019 Elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in a publication on 10th October, 2018 disqualified the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for 2019 elections.

According to the electoral body, the decision was taken as a result of the failure of the party, APC to elect its candidates within the stipulated period in accordance with provisions Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
All Political parties had up till 12:00 am on Sunday to complete their primary elections for various offices; findings at APC headquarters in Abuja indicated that Zamfara state was unable to beat the deadline.

The next question to be asked is whether or not INEC has the statutory power to disqualify APC from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for the 2019 elections? We will answer in NEGATIVE for the following reasons.

By virtue of Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date of appointed for a general election under the provisions of the Electoral Act, submit to the INEC, in the prescribed form, the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, provided INEC shall not reject or disqualify candidate(s) for any reason whatsoever. For ease of reference the Section 31 (1) Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provide thus:

Section 31(1)
Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date of appointed for a general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed forms, the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, provided the Commission shall not reject or disqualify candidate(s) any reason whatsoever…
From the forgoing provision which INEC arbitrarily and capriciously relied on in disqualifying APC from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for the 2019 elections, APC has not later than 60 days before the date of general election under the provisions of the Electoral Act, submit to the INEC, in the prescribed form, the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.

The general Election time table as published by the INEC on their official website is on 16th February, 2019 and 2nd March, 2019 for Presidential/National Assembly Elections and Governorship and State Assembly/FCT Council election respectively.
Now APC, has over 100 days from today, 10th October, 2018 which the INEC purportedly disqualified them from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for 2019 elections.

The Commission (INEC), also relied on provision of Section 87 Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to purportedly disqualified APC from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for 2019 elections. Section 87 of the Act stated thus:
“A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions”

In quick response, the highest court of the land, Supreme court in the case of Shinkafi v. Yari (2016) 7 NWLR, Pt 1511, p. 340, at 374-375 paras F-A; and 414- 415 paras G-B, (per Onnoghen CJN) settled this kind of issues and held that The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) does not state that any party which fails to give notice of its congress etc to INEC would forfeit the right to field a candidate…”
From the authority of Shinkafi v. Yari (Supra) and provision of Section 31 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) INEC lacks all power and authority to disqualified APC from fielding candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for 2019 elections.

The purported disqualification of APC done by INEC on 10th October, 2018 is illegal, void, unknown to law and unconstitutional and against the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

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