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Whether provisions of the electoral act apply to local government elections

By LawPavilion
19 July 2022   |   1:07 pm
This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi delivered on December 15, 2021.

Gavel PHOTO:Getty Images

ALIYU v. APC & ORS
CITATION: (2022) LPELR-57345 (SC)

In the Supreme Court of Nigeria

ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2022
Suit No: SC.CV/24/2022

Before Their Lordships:

CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE Justice of the Supreme Court
AMINA ADAMU AUGIE Justice of the Supreme Court
HELEN MORONKEJI OGUNWUMIJU

Justice of the Supreme Court
TIJJANI ABUBAKAR. Justice of the Supreme Court
EMMANUEL AKOMAYE AGIM
Justice of the Supreme Court

Between

BARR ILIYA IBN ALIYU -Appellant(s)

And

1. ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS
2. HON JOHN W. D. MAMMAN
(For himself and as representing other caretaker Committee usurping the functions of Elected Officers of the 1st Defendant of Nasarawa State)
3. HON DANLAMI IDRIS
4. NASARAWA STATE INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION (NASIEC). -Respondent(s)

LEADING JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY TIJJANI ABUBAKAR, J.S.C.

FACTS
This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi delivered on December 15, 2021.

The Appellant commenced an action against the 1st to 4th Respondents (as 1st – 4th Defendants) by originating summons challenging the primary elections conducted by the 1st Respondent on July 26, 2021 for the position of chairman Nasarawa Eggon Local Government of Nasarawa State. The Appellant felt aggrieved by the way the primaries were conducted because he satisfied all the requirements for participation in the primary elections but he was excluded from the primary elections. The said primary election produced the 3rd Respondent as the successful candidate of the 1st Respondent, and his name was therefore submitted to the 4th Respondent.

At the trial, the 1st and 2nd Respondents filed notice of preliminary objection seeking to strike out the suit on four grounds. The grounds of objection at the trial were that the Plaintiff had no locus standi to institute the action, that the suit was filed outside the 14 days period required and was therefore statute barred, that the plaintiff failed to include his National Identification Number in the originating summons thereby rendering the processes filed invalid, and that the Plaintiff had not exhausted the internal remedies for dispute resolution in line with the party constitution. The 4th Respondent also filed notice of preliminary objection contending that there was no cause of action against it.

The matter was heard by the trial Court, the trial Court held that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal and accordingly struck it out. Aggrieved, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal which rendered a decision holding that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal on the ground that the Court is not endowed with Appellate jurisdiction to entertain Appeals bothering on decisions of the lower Court on the Election of Chairman, and/or Councilors of Local Governments and that the provisions of the Electoral Act do not apply to Local Government Elections. The Court of Appeal accordingly struck out the appeal. Further aggrieved, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The Court determined the appeal based on the preliminary objection raised by the Respondents contending that the Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the appeal and that the suit was filed outside the required period of 14 days as provided by Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and was therefore statute barred.

RESPONDENTS’ SUBMISSION
The contention of the 1st and 2nd Respondents is that the suit was filed at the trial Court outside the 14 days provided for in Section 285(9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. Counsel relied on the decisions in ACN V. INEC (2013) NWLR (Pt. 1370) Pg. 161, INEC V. ONOWAKPOKO (2018) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1602) pg. 134, YAKI V. BAGUDU (2015) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1491) pg. 288, and CBN V. HARRIS (2017) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1575) Pg. 541 to submit that the provisions of Section 285 (9) limited the rights of the Appellant to file any action once he did not meet up with the statutorily prescribed time. Counsel submitted that the suit was filed on the 9th day of August, 2021 and the cause of action arose on the 26th day of July, 2021, that between 26th July, 2021 to 9th August, 2021 is 15 days, from this computation therefore Counsel said the suit was filed outside the 14 days limited by the provisions of Section 285 (9) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999.

Counsel further argued, referring to the decision of the Supreme Court in UDENWA & ANOR V. UZODINMA & ANOR (2012) LPELR-22283 (SC), that appeals coming from the Court of Appeal bordering on Local Government Elections are not among the items listed under Section 233 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). He therefore urged the Court to hold that it lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the appeal.

APPELLANT’S SUBMISSION
In reply, Counsel to the Appellant submitted that the Appellant has consistently, constantly and persistently challenged the conduct of the primary elections held by the All Progressive Congress at Nasarawa Eggon Local Government on the 26th of July, 2021. Counsel submitted that the action therefore falls within the rights of the Appellant under Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act. Learned Counsel urged the Court to discountenance the objections.

RESOLUTION OF ISSUES
In resolving the issues raised in the preliminary objection, the Court firstly examined the issue of the suit filed at the High being statute barred and held that since the Appellant brought himself under the provisions of Section 87 (9) of the Electoral act 2010 (as amended) and insisted that he came to the trial Court pursuant to the provisions of Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, he subjected his claim to the provisions of Section 285 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 thereby making his suit incompetent having been filed outside the 14 days provided by law.

On the issue of whether the Court had the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the appeal, the Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that disputes arising from elections into office of Chairman and/or Councilors of Local Governments are not appealable to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The Court held that by virtue of Section 103 (1) of the Electoral Act, elections into Local Government offices are not within the contemplation of the Electoral Act but within the contemplation of the Electoral Law of various States. What is within the contemplation of the Electoral Act by virtue of the above state section is elections into Local Area Council.

Concluding on the resolution of the issues raised in the preliminary objection, the Court held that it is settled law that an appellate Court can only exercise its appellate jurisdiction to correct errors of the lower Court. Thus, if the lower Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter, an appellate Court will also lack jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. See AKINBOBOLA V. PLISSON FISKO NIG LTD & 2 ORS (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 167) 270 AT 285.

The Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that its jurisdiction is limited to matters regulated by the Electoral Act or any Act of the National Assembly. The Local Government Electoral Law of Nasarawa State or any other State, except that of the Federal Capital Territory as it relates to Area Councils, cannot confer jurisdiction on the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. The Court therefore struck out the appeal.

HELD
The appeal was struck out for lack of jurisdiction.

APPEARANCES:
M. M. HIRSE, ESQ., with him, ILIYA IBN ALIYU, ESQ. and
DANIEL AMOS, ESQ. -For Appellant.

M. E USMAN, ESQ. -For 1st and 2nd Respondents.

I. H. NALARABA, ESQ., with him, A. M. BAROE, ESQ. -For 3rd Respondent.

A. S. GAYAM, ESQ., with him, I. O. ELEJA, ESQ. and WUSHI REJOICE BULUS (MISS), ESQ.
-For 4th Respondent.

Compiled by LawPavilion.

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