Justiciability Of A Pre-Election Matter Instituted In A State High Court

CASE TITLE:                 ISHAKU v. SULEIMAN & ORS (2023) LPELR-59910(CA)

 



JUDGMENT DATE:      23RD FEBRUARY, 2023

JUSTICES:                      ISAIAH OLUFEMI AKEJU,  J.C.A.


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PETER OYINKENIMIEMI AFFEN, J.C.A.

MOHAMMED LAWAL ABUBAKAR, J.C.A.

COURT DIVISION: YOLA

PRACTICE AREA:           PRE-ELECTION MATTERS

 

FACTS:

This appeal emanated against the judgment of the High Court of Adamawa State holden in Yola, delivered on 10th January, 2023 in Suit No. HC/ADSY/202/ 2022 which action the 1st and 2nd Respondents commenced by the Originating Summons filed at the State High Court in Yola for the 6 reliefs. Issues were joined by the parties and the High Court of Adamawa State (the trial Court) gave judgment in favour of the 1st and 2nd Respondents and granted their reliefs.

The Appellant who was a defendant and in the action was dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial Court commenced this appeal.

 

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:

The Court determined the appeal on the following issues:

​1. Whether the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Suit at the trial Court which borders on discipline and membership of a Political Party is justiciable for determination by any Court of law?

  1. Whether the trial Court being a High Court of State possesses the requisite jurisdiction under Section 272 of the Constitution to entertain the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Originating Summons at the trial Court which agitates pre-election and/or election related dispute seeking disqualification of a Candidate?
  2. Assuming without conceding that the trial Court possess the requisite Jurisdiction, whether the 1st and 2nd Respondents possess the requisite Locus Standi to institute the action at the Trial Court?

 

COUNSEL SUBMISSION

Appellants’ learned counsel submitted on the issue of whether the High Court of a State has jurisdiction to entertain the Originating Summons of the 1st and 2nd Respondents at the trial Court in which they were seeking disqualification of a candidate. From contesting an election shows that the case of the 1st and 2nd Respondents was a pre-election matter over which the High Court of a State that was established under Section 272 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) does not have jurisdiction; it is only the Federal High Court that has the jurisdiction under Section 29(5) and (6) as well as Section 84 (19) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

 

The 1st and 2nd Respondents argued that it is the case of a party as defined by the content of the Writ of Summons or the Originating Summons and the affidavit in its support that determines jurisdiction. JOHN DAVIDS CONSTR. LTD V. RIACUS CO. LTD (2019) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1697) 143. It was contended that the case of the 1st and 2nd Respondents as shown, has no aspect that touches on the Electoral Act, 2022 as they did not participate in or contest any primary election as stipulated by Section 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022. UBA V. OZIGBO (2022) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1839) 431, EZE V. PDP (2018) LPELR-44907 (SC). It was also submitted that a case is an authority for what is decided. OSAKWE V. FEC ASABA (2010) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1201).

 

The learned Counsel for the 1st and 2nd Respondents further submitted that no aspect of the case of the 1st and 2nd Respondents divests the High Court of Adamawa State of its jurisdiction with respect thereto because the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 were inapplicable to the case. The learned Counsel further argued that the instant case is on quite similar to that of OSHIOMHOLE V. SALIHU (Supra) and the statutes and cases cited by the Appellant were not helpful to his case because the 1st and 2nd Respondents have not sought the enforcement of any of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.

 

DECISION/HELD:

In conclusion, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.

RATIO:

ELECTORAL MATTERS – PRE-ELECTION MATTERS: Whether the High Court of a State has jurisdiction to hear and determine pre-election matters

“On the competence of the trial Court to hear and determine the issues that were submitted for adjudication which are in respect of election or election related issues there is no doubt that the High Court of the State is created by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and grants jurisdiction to that Court under Section 272 thereof subject to Section 251 of the same Constitution. The 1st and 2nd Respondents were seeking reliefs concerning the disqualification of the Appellant from contesting the general election that has not been held, it is a suit in respect of matters that predate the general election. Therefore, it can be properly described as pre-election matter as held by this Court in the case of OJOJUAMA V. INEC, Case NO. CA/ABJ/EPT/GOV/747/2020 delivered on 2/10/2020.

Section 272 of the Constitution granted power to the State High Court to hear and determine civil and criminal cases generally without any mention of pre-election or election related cases as stated under Section 84(14) of the Electoral Act 2022 that specifically gives jurisdiction to the Federal High Court.

Election or election matters are sui generis with special rules or procedure, they cannot be taken as general civil matters and without mentioning it as part of the jurisdiction of a State High Court that Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine them and I so hold.” Per AKEJU, J.C.A.




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