The attention of the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to a recent publication by certain social media and conventional news outlets stating that this Office had purportedly requested the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the elections in Zamfara State. The Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation wishes to emphatically reiterate that this report is false and misleading.
In our letter dated 13th February 2019 addressed to the INEC Chairman, the Honourable Attorney of the Federation in reacting to a petition from M.A Mahmud informing this Office of the subsisting Court of Appeal decision in CA/S/22/2019 which effectively upheld the APC primaries in Zamfara state, wrote to INEC informing them of this development and requested the Commission to comply by extending the time within which the political party may field its candidate in the Gubernatorial elections.
It is pertinent to note that the constraining circumstances that led to the delay in fielding a candidate were caused by INEC’s refusal to comply with the Zamfara State High Court Judgment which upheld the said APC primaries. INEC had relied on a Federal High Court Decision which nullified the primaries. However, the Court of Appeal decision in reference has now effectively overturned this decision and upheld the said APC primaries.
It is also relevant to reiterate the provisions of sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010, which allows INEC the latitude and discretion to extend the time within which a political party may duly field a candidate for an election where unforeseen circumstances constrained such a party from doing so within the stipulated time frame. It is therefore our position that shutting a candidate out of the elections despite a subsisting Court of Appeal decision mandating otherwise would lead to a miscarriage of justice and certainly not in the interest of giving all parties in Zamfara state a level playing field. Our letter to INEC is therefore in line with the subsisting Court of Appeal decision as well as Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010.
It is at this point mandatory to reiterate that the issue for contention by the parties before the trial and appellate court were in no way and by no stretch of imagination extend to the presidential election which at any rate was not an issue contemplated for determination by the trial and appellate court.
It is therefore obvious that what the insinuations in the social media and some conventional news outlets set out to achieve on the strength of this issue is to confuse the electorate and Nigerians at large and/or to portray the ruling government as insensitive to the electoral process.
The public is hereby invited to note that this Office would not in any way interfere with INEC’s mandate to conduct free and fair elections and is fully in support of ensuring that justice is done to all the parties in this circumstance.
Written by Comrade Salihu Othman Isah
Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.