DOES THE COURT HAVE JURISDICTION TO ENFORCE THE ORDER OF A COURT WITH REGARD TO THE PERSONS WHO ARE TO HOLD OFFICES IN A POLITICAL PARTY AND WHO ARE TO BE ENGAGED IN THE GOVERNANCE OF A POLITICAL PARTY
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CASE TITLE: APC v. JOHN & ORS (2019) LPELR-47003(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 22ND MARCH, 2019
PRACTICE AREA: ELECTORAL MATTERS
LEAD JUDGMENT: UGOCHUKWU ANTHONY OGAKWU, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on Electoral Matters.
This appeal is against the decision of the Federal High Court sitting in Calabar in SUIT NO. FHC/CA/CS/73/2018: HON GODWIN ETIM JOHN & ANOR (for themselves and on behalf of the State Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress C.R.S.) vs. ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS & ORS. The action at the Federal High Court was commenced by Originating Summons for the determination of some questions. The questions presented for determination related to who, as between the 3rd-5th Respondents and the 1st & 2nd Respondents, were the elected State Executive of the 3rd Respondent in Cross River State and whether the action of the 3rd-5th Respondents in forcibly taking over the State Secretariat Annex of the Appellant in Cross River State was not in disobedience of the order of Court and whether the said acts of disobedience of the order of Court should not be reversed. The 1st & 2nd Respondents claimed some declaratory reliefs.
The reliefs claimed were in respect of who the elected State Executive of the Appellant in Cross River State was, and whether the actions of the 3rd-5th Respondents in holding themselves out as the State Executive and taking over the Secretariat Annex of the Appellant is not in disobedience of the orders of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; and which actions, being in violation of subsisting orders of Court should be reversed. The action before the Federal High Court was in respect of the State Executive (political party officials) of the Appellant. It had absolutely nothing to do with the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for the election. The case was not about the candidates who were to be sponsored by the Appellant for election. It was about the persons who were members of the State Executive of the Appellant in Cross River State. The 1st & 2nd Respondents maintained the action in a representative capacity for themselves and on behalf of the State Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Cross River State.
The action at the Federal High Court was contested. The Appellant and the 3rd – 5th Respondents filed preliminary objections challenging the competence of the action and the jurisdiction of the lower Court to entertain the same. The Court heard the preliminary objections together with the substantive Originating Summons and in its judgment; it dismissed the preliminary objections and further entered judgment in favour of the 1st & 2nd Respondents on the merits of the Originating Summons. All the reliefs claimed in the Originating Summons were granted. Dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The Court determined the appeal on these issues couched as follows:
- Whether in view of the extant provisions of Section 285(9) of the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), the trial Court had jurisdiction to entertain the 1st & 2nd Respondents’ suit?
- Whether the suit of the 1st & 2nd Respondents at the trial Court was an abuse of the Court process and ought to have been dismissed by the trial Court?
- Whether the trial Court was right to have awarded the reliefs of the 1st & 2nd Respondents in view of their failure to prove their entitlement to the reliefs?
- Whether the Judgment of the trial Court is perverse, considering the suit of the 1st & 2nd Respondents as constituted and evidence adduced during the trial?
- Whether the right to fair hearing of the Appellant was breached by the award of consequential reliefs by the trial Court?
On the whole, the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed the same. The decision of the High Court was set aside.
- CONSTITUTIONAL LAW- BREACH OF RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING: Effect of breach of the right to fair hearing
- EVIDENCE- ADMISSION/ADMITTED FACT(S): Whether admission/admitted facts need further proof
- JUDGMENT AND ORDER- CONSEQUENTIAL ORDER: Nature and purpose of a consequential order
- JUDGMENT AND ORDER- JUDGMENT OF COURT: Effect of a judgment given without jurisdiction
- PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- ISSUE OF JURISDICTION: Whether leave of Court is required to raise the issue of jurisdiction on appeal