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Nigeria:VP Reacts to Mixed Court Rulings

Two courts in Nigeria have offered conflicting rulings over whether the vice president can run in this month's presidential election. The Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday morning that the country's Independent Election Commission (INEC) had the right to disqualify Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Last month, INEC excluded the vice president’s name from the list of presidential candidates because it said he had been indicted for corruption. However, later Tuesday, a lower court (the federal High Court) ordered the election commission to include the vice president on the ballot.

From the capital, Abuja, Vice President Atiku Abubakar talked to VOA about Tuesday’s mixed court rulings.

“One judgment is specific, one is general interpretation of the provisions of the constitution. The one that applies to me specifically is the one by the federal High Court, which says that based on section 137, INEC has no power to exclude me because that so-called indictment has been quashed. And therefore, directed and compelled INEC to return my name as a presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC) party,” he said.

Abubakar hailed the court’s ruling, describing it as a victory for the judiciary.

"It is a victory and then I have to commend the judiciary. Actually, the judiciary has been our last hope and the judiciary is really playing that role,” he noted.

Abubakar accused President Obasanjo’s government of double standards, and added that he is still campaigning as a presidential candidate for the Action Congress party.

“This is a government of multiple standards. They decide to accept which court ruling or which court judgment to obey. So we cannot be talking about one indictment that has been quashed over and over again…I’m already campaigning, I’m back on the campaign trail and campaigning,” Abubakar pointed out.

He said his campaign message has been widely accepted across the country.

“Very positive, that is the fear of the ruling party. That is why for the past two years, they have been trying to stop me from running because they are afraid of my candidature,” he said.

Abubakar said although he expects to win in this month’s election, he fears the election could be tampered with.

“As long as there is free, fair and credible elections, nothing will stop me from emerging victorious…I don’t see INEC as presently constituted can deliver that result (free and fair elections) unless they change,” he noted.

He urged INEC to prepare itself more for the April election.

“They (INEC) should be able to resolve their logistical problems. They have never been ready anyway,” he said.

Abubakar encouraged Nigerians to defend their individual rights and privileges.

“We should stand up and defend our democracy, ensure the rule of law, transparency, and good governance,” he said.