PERIOD WITHIN WHICH A POLITICAL PARTY MUST REGISTER ITS ALTERED CONSTITUTION WITH INEC
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CASE TITLE: GANA v. SDP & ORS (2019) LPELR-47153(SC)
JUDGMENT DATE: 29TH MARCH, 2019
PRACTICE AREA: ELECTORAL MATTERS
LEAD JUDGMENT: EJEMBI EKO, J.S.C.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on Electoral Matters.
This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja.
The appellant, Prof. Jerry Gana participated in the presidential primaries of the 1st respondent, the Social Democratic Party, conducted on 6/10/18 along with four other contestants. At the conclusion of the exercise, the 5th respondent was declared the winner with 812 votes. The appellant came second with 611 votes. The name of the 5th respondent was duly forwarded to INEC as the party’s Presidential candidate for the 2019 Presidential Election. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, the appellant petitioned the Respondent’s Presidential Primary Appeal Panel contending that there was a breach of Article 15.3(i) and (ii) of the 1st Respondent’s Constitution (Exhibit I), which was ratified on 6/10/18.
It was the appellant’s contention that since the National Chairman of the Party, Chief Olu Falae, hails from Ondo State in Southern Nigeria, the 5th Respondent, who hails from Cross River State, also in the Southern part of the country, was not eligible to contest the said primaries and that he who hails from the Northern part of the country should be declared the winner of the primaries. He also petitioned the 2nd respondent. He instituted the suit before the High Court when he did not receive any response to his petitions. He sought various reliefs from the High Court including a declaration that he be declared as the candidate with the majority of lawful votes cast at the said presidential primaries, on the ground that any votes cast for the 5th respondent in violation of the party’s zoning policy, are wasted votes.
All the candidates who participated in the presidential primaries were required to give a written undertaking to support whoever emerged as the winner of the position being contested. The appellant duly gave the said undertaking vide Exhibit SDP5. Two other contestants apart from the 5th respondent were also from the Southern part of the country, yet the appellant only challenged the eligibility of the 5th respondent to contest.
The learned trial Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory granted all the appellant’s reliefs. On appeal to the Court of Appeal by the respondents, the decision of the High Court was set aside and the 5th respondent was declared as the duly nominated candidate of the 1st respondent. The appellant was dissatisfied and he further appealed to the Supreme Court.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The Court determined the appeal on these issues couched as follows:
- Whether the 1st Respondent, for the purposes of the Presidential Primary election it conducted on 6th October 2018, was bound by its Amended Constitution Exhibit 1?
- What is the correct interpretation of Article 15.3(i) & (ii)(a) of the SDP Constitution (as amended in 2018), Exhibit 1; and
iii. Whether Article 15.3(ii)(a) of Exhibit 1 is inconsistent with Sections 42, 131 and 137 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended?
On the whole, the Court found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed same.
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- PARTY CONSTITUTION: Whether political parties, as well as its members, are bound by the party Constitution.
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- POLITICAL PARTY PRIMARY: Whether an aspirant who signs an undertaking to support the winner of a primary election is estopped by his conduct from challenging the outcome of the said primaries.
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- JURISDICTION: Whether Court have jurisdiction to interfere in the internal arrangement of a party to win elections
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- JURISDICTION: Whether Courts have jurisdiction to interfere in the internal affair of a party as regards its choice of candidate for political office; exceptions to same
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- PARTY CONSTITUTION: Whether political parties, as well as its members, are bound by the party Constitution