LEGALPEDIA CITATION: LER SC 589/2013
AREAS OF LAW- ELECTORAL MATTERS, FAIR HEARING, COURT JURISDICTION, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES SUMMARY OF FACTS:
This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal which set aside the judgment of the trial court (the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt) in which the 3rd Respondent was held as not qualified to participate in the August 24th primaries of the 1st Respondent (Peoples Democratic Party). The Appellant was originally disqualified for irregularity of his tax payments. He was eventually cleared to contest after a review by the screening appeals panel of the Ist Respondent (PDP in Anambra State). The primaries was won by the 3rd Respondent, whereupon the Appellant challenged the eligibility of the 3rd Respondent to contest the primaries. The trial Court held in favour of the Appellant leading to the appeal by the 3rd Respondent against the decision of the trial court. At the appeal, the Appellant’s counsel filed his brief of arguments out of time and refused to move his motion to regularise same, but rather sought an adjournment without adducing any cogent reason. The court considered the motion for extension of time abandoned and struck out the same. Refusing the Court’s invitation to adopt his brief of arguments, the Appellant’s counsel disserted the appeal court without leave. The Appeal Court notwithstanding this breach of decorum proceeded to consider the appeal on its merit by deeming the Appellant’s brief as adopted and argued by his counsel. The appeal turned against the Appellant, setting aside the judgment of the trial court, whereupon the 3rd Respondent was declared the candidate for the election. The Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court .
HELD Appeal succeeds in part.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
Whether the judgment of the Court of Appeal leading to this Appeal was hinged on a non-existent Appellant’s Brief of Arguments, which in the course of the proceedings was filed out of time, with the motion for extension of time abandoned by counsel and consequently struck out, is not a breach of the present Appellant’s (then 1st Respondent’s) right to fair hearing, thereby nullifying the judgment of the court below?
Whether the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the trial Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate on the complaint of the Appellant on the basis that his complaint did not come within the ambit of Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as in the court’s view the reliefs sought were predicated on matters that were solely internal party matters and therefore not justiciable?
RATIOS FAIR HEARING- MEANING AND CONSTITUTIONALITY OF FAIR HEARING:
“The constitutionality of the right to fair hearing is not in doubt. Section 36 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides thus: “36 (1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”
EFFECT OF PROCEEDINGS CONDUCTED IN BREACH OF A PARTY’S RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING It is also well settled that any proceedings conducted in breach of a party’s right to fair hearing, no matter how well conducted would be rendered a nullity”. PER KEKERE-EKUN JSC BREACH OF FAIR HEARING-BURDEN OF PROOF-ON WHO LIES
“The law is also trite that the burden is on the party alleging breach of fair hearing in a case to prove the breach, and he must do so in the light of the facts and circumstances leading to the alleged breach. This is because the facts of the case and the facts only, determine acts which constitute non-compliance with the principles of fair hearing”. PER MAHMUD MOHAMMED JSC
INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES – GOLDEN RULE: “The golden rule of interpretation of statutes is that where the words used are clear and unambiguous they must, prima facie, be given their natural and grammatical meaning unless it would lead to absurdity”. PER KEKERE-EKUN JSC
INTERNAL AFFAIRS OF A POLITICAL PARTY NON JUSTICIABLE- SECTION 34 OF THE ELECTORAL ACT 2006 “The membership of a political party or the sponsorship of a candidate at an election are internal affairs of the party and therefore not justiciable. See: Onuoha Vs Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244: (1983) NSCC 494. PER KEKERE-EKUN JSC
JUSTICIABLE RIGHTS OF AN ELECTORAL CANDIDATE – SECTION 87(9) OF THE ELECTORAL ACT: “The literal interpretation of Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act is that an aspirant has a right to complain where the provisions of the Electoral Act and/or the guidelines of a political party have not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate for election. He may exercise the right to seek redress notwithstanding the provisions of the said Act or rules of a political party. In other words no provision of the Electoral Act or any rule of a political party can take away this right. However, the provision is not at large. The complainant must be an aspirant who participated in the primary that produced the sponsored candidate”. PER KEKERE-EKUN JSC
APPEALS: WHERE FINDINGS OF THE COURT OF APPEAL OR TRIAL COURT ARE NOT APPEALED AGAINST
“The law is trite that the findings of the Court of Appeal or trial Court in respect of which there is no appeal, the findings remain valid and in full force”. PER MAHMUD MOHAMMED JSC
ISSUES-WHERE NOT RAISED BY A PARTY-ATTITUDE OF THE SUPREME COURT THERETO
“Where an issue has not been raised by the Appellant, it is not the business of this Court to concern itself with the issue…” PER MAHMUD MOHAMMED JSC
Tsokwa Motors (Nig.) Ltd. Vs U.B.A. Plc. (2008) All FWLR (@ 1255 A – B:
Adiaun Vs A.G. Oyo State ((1987) 1 NWLR () 674:
Okafor Vs A.G. Anambra State (1991) 3 NWLR () 59:
Leaders & Co. Ltd. Vs Bamaiyi (2010) 18 NWLR () 329
Nwokoro Vs Onuma (1990) 3 NWLR () 22 (5) 32 A – B
Ugwu Vs Ararume f2007) ALL FWLR () 807 (9) 884 A — P:
MarwaVs Nyako (2012) 1 SC () 44:
Nafiu Rabiu Vs The State (1980) 8 -11 SC 130 @ 149.
Onuoha Vs Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244: (1983) NSCC 494
Lado Vs C.P.C. (2012) ALL FWLR () 598 @ 622 – 623 F – H (2011) 12 SC ( ) 113 @ 139 – 140
Uwazurike Vs Nwachukwu (2013) 3 NWLR () 503 @ 526 E – G
Buhari vs. Obasanjo (2005) 13 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 941) 1 at 138
Oyibo Iriri & Others v. Eseroraye Emrhodare & Anor (1991) 3 S.C.N.J 1
Maikyo v. Itodo (2007) 7 N.W.LR. (Pt. 1034) 443
STATUTES REFERRED TO:
The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended)
The Court of Appeal Rules 2011