The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it is studying the judgment of the Court of Appeal, affirming the nullification of the congresses that produced the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State for the general election next year.
The electoral body also stated that it would soon decide on other cases filed or arising from the said judgment and other interrelated cases with similar facts.
The Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, had last Wednesday affirmed that the APC in Rivers State will not field any candidate during the 2019 elections when it dismissed the appeal filed by the factional Rivers State APC governorship candidate, Mr. Tonye Cole.
The Appeal Court also affirmed the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nwogu that Rivers State has no ward executives, local government executives and state executives as it dismissed the appeal filed by the sacked Rivers State APC State Chairman, Mr. Ojukaye Flag Amachree.
Justice Abubakar Yahaya had ruled that the appeal against the Justice Chinwendu Nwogu High Court judgment on the party congress crisis lacked merit, adding that the application for joinder failed to observe the 14 days rules of appeal.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, told THISDAY yesterday that INEC has a standard procedure on how to approach court decisions and has consistently maintained that it would continue to respect the institution of the judiciary by giving effect to the judgments and orders emanating from properly-constituted courts of law.
He stated, “INEC is studying the judgments of the High Court of Rivers State, the Court of Appeal decisions on same, other cases filed or arising from the said decisions, judgments and other interrelated cases with similar facts and ingredients, and will soon take a decision on them and inform the Nigerian people.
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“Some of the cases, judgments and orders arising from the conduct of party primary elections have important bearing on the final publication of the list of candidates, the ballot papers to be printed and INEC’s processes, and the commission is conscious of their implications on the electoral process and will take a decision that accords with its mandate, the rule of law and due process.”
Okoye added that the commission would obey the judgments and orders of courts the moment it satisfies itself that the judgments or orders it has been served with are duly certified and are the product of the processes and procedures of a properly constituted court of law.
The INEC national commissioner further explained that the commission also uses its own processes and procedures in coming to a satisfaction that it has been served with such judgments or orders or has been briefed by in-house or external solicitors and that the judgments or orders relate to duly-registered political parties.
The commission, however, assured Nigerians that it will, at all times, lean on the part of constitutionalism and the rule of law and would not take any action that has the capacity of undermining the institution of the judiciary.
Reacting to the Appeal Court judgment, however, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that it expects INEC to obey the judgment.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that if the APC is not appealing the decision, the main opposition party expects the electoral umpire to act accordingly.
According to him, “INEC had always claimed to be a respecter of court decisions and court orders. We expect them not to have exception to that ruling.
If the court has said that a particular party cannot participate in elections, we expect INEC, if they are not appealing the decision, to obey the court order in the ruling.” we