Court dismisses suit seeking removal of APC, Matawalle from Zamfara guber poll
Matawalle signs

AFederal High Court in Abuja on Friday dismissed a suit seeking the removal of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Bello Matawalle, from the Zamfara governorship election. Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, held that the case of the plaintiffs lacked merit.

The plaintiffs; National Rescue Movement (NRM), a political party, and Saidu Dansadau, its governorship candidate, had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 1st defendant.

Also joined in the suit were the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Accord Party (AP), APC, Matawalle, Bala Maru, Mahdi Gusau, Nasiru Magarya as 2nd to 8th defendants respectively.

The plaintiffs had asked the court to determine whether after due construction of Sections 1 (1) (2), 177 (c), ] 178 (1), 180 (d), 221 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the judgments of the Supreme Court in suit: SC/377/2019 between APC vs. Marafa & 179 others; and SC/648/2016 between Faleke vs. INEC.

If the 4th defendant (APC) can occupy the office of Governor of Zamfara for the period between 2019 and 2023 when it did not sponsor any candidate and participate in the 2019 Zamfara gubernatorial elections conducted by INEC.

They also prayed the court to determine if the votes of the PDP garnered in the 2019 Zamfara elections can be transferred to APC or any other political party for purposes of enabling a member of APC or any other political party occupy the office of governor of the State.

The plaintiffs, who sought ten claims against the defendants, prayed the court to declare that APC cannot occupy the office of governor of Zamfara for the period between 2019 and 2023 due to its non-participation in the elections conducted by INEC.

They also sought a declaration that Matawalle’s membership of APC had disqualified him from continued occupation of the office of the governor of the state due to the ineligibility of members of APC to occupy the office between 2019 and 2023.

They, therefore, sought an order directing that Dansadau be sworn in forthwith as governor of Zamfara, being the next candidate with the highest votes in the 2019 Zamfara governorship poll “whose membership and sponsorship by a political party pursuant to the provisions of Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution is still subsisting.”

Alternatively, they sought an order directing INEC to conduct another governorship election for Zamfara within 30 days between persons who were candidates in the 2019 governorship poll “and whose membership and sponsorship by political parties pursuant to the provisions of Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution are still subsisting.”

Also, they prayed for an order excluding the APC from participating in the election, having been disqualified from participation in 2019, among other reliefs.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Ekwo held that the constitution does not prescribe any penalty against a governor or deputy governor who defects from the political party on whose ticket he got into office to another political party.

The judge said that having identified the lacuna in the constitution, the trial court had no power or jurisdiction filling the gap, or interpreting what the constitution had not made provision for.

“I am of the view that the sanction against a governor or deputy governor who abandons the political party that sponsored him is by way of impeachment under Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution.

“That is a duty enuring to the legislature and not the courts, as it is a political decision,” he said.

Besides, he said the matter had been judicially settled “and remains so irrespective of how any litigant or the lower court feels.

“Consequently, I am bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal which in my opinion, has settled the issue in this case.

“The case of the plaintiffs falls for lacking in merit and I make an order dismissing it.”