The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has clarified reports that he wrote a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), requesting the postponement of the general election in Zamfara State.
The Attorney General had drawn the ire of former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), and a constitutional law expert, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who also condemned the letter and advised INEC not to take orders from him.
But Malami, in a statement yesterday by his media aide, Mr. Salihu Isah, described the reports that he asked INEC to postpone the elections in Zamfara State as false and misleading.
According to the statement, the AGF noted that all he did was to draw the attention of the commission to the need to consider a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal in favour of the APC.
The statement titled, ‘AGF letter to INEC dated February, 13, 2019 – A Clarification,’ read: “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 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 AGF 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.”
Malami pointed out 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’s primaries.
He said INEC had relied on a Federal High Court judgment, which nullified the primaries, whereas the Court of Appeal’s decision in reference has now effectively overturned this decision and upheld the said APC primaries.
In supporting his position, the AGF made reference to 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.
He said: “It is, therefore, our position that shutting a candidate out of the elections despite a subsisting Court of Appeal’s 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’s 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.”Malami urged the public to note that his 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.
Meanwhile, INEC has confirmed that it received a letter from the Malami, directing it to postpone elections in Zamfara State.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, told journalists in Abuja that the commission has received the letter but was yet to take any decision aside the line it took before on the issue.
According to him, “The commission has received the letter from the AGF. The commission is studying the letter and the accompanying attachments. The commission will make its position known as soon as possible.”