Be in the know…Legally

WHETHER IT IS THE NAME OF A PARTY WITHOUT LOCUS STANDI THAT WILL BE STRUCK OUT AND NOT THE ENTIRE SUIT

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CASE TITLE: ASHIKI & ORS v. ABUBAKAR & ORS (2018) LPELR-45895(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE: 2ND NOVEMBER, 2018

PRACTICE AREA: CHIEFTAINCY MATTERS

LEAD JUDGMENT: ONYEKACHI AJA OTISI, J.C.A.

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT

INTRODUCTION:

This appeal borders on the issue of Locus Standi in Chieftaincy Matters.

FACTS:

This is an appeal against the decision of the High Court of Nasarawa State. The Appellants, together with one Osuko Madugu, the then Okuba of Agwatashi, but now deceased, as plaintiffs instituted the suit. Upon the demise of the said Osuko Madugu, the processes were amended. Before the hearing of this appeal, Agbo Egwa (Ogbolosoho), who was then the 2nd Appellant, also died. His name was struck out by Order of the Court of Appeal made on 23/10/2018.

The case of the Appellants before the High Court was as follows: The stool of Agwatashi Chiefdom became vacant upon the demise of the former Osoho of Olosoho (Chief of Agwatashi) late Barrister Musa Ogashuwa. In August 2009 and in line with the Legal Notice No. 1 of 2006, the Chiefs (Appointment and Deposition) Law CAP 20 Laws of Northern Nigeria 1963, (the Appointment and Deposition of Chiefs (Appointment of Osoho of Olosoho (Agwatashi) Order 2006, the 4th Respondent set up the machinery for the selection of a new Osoho of Olosoho. The 4th Respondent appointed Ja’afaru Ango as Presiding Officer and Ibrahim Galadima as Secretary with the 2nd Respondent, then Secretary of Obi L.G.A as Observer. Notices of meeting for the selection of a new Osoho of Olosoho (Agwatashi) were sent to the 2nd and 3rd Appellants, as well as to late Osoku Madugu, and the now deceased former 2nd Appellant. Notice of meeting was also sent to one Shuaibu Adokwe. All of them were traditional selectors, kingmakers. On 4/9/2009, the five traditional selectors accompanied by one Bala Adeka, who was to be their interpreter went to SUM Primary School, Agwatashi to vote for the new Osoho of Olosoho. At the venue were the Presiding Officer Ja’afaru Ango, Ibrahim Galadima the Secretary, and 2nd Respondent who was there as an observer. In spite of protest by the four traditional selectors, their interpreter Bala Adeka was refused entry into the hall where the selection exercise was to take place. Notwithstanding, they believed that the 2nd Respondent, who conducted the exercise, would be fair to them.   During the selection exercise, 2nd Respondent called each of the traditional selectors to his table, requested for whom they wanted to vote and led their fore finger to thumb print on the ballot papers.  
At the end of the exercise the presiding officer announced the result with the 1st Respondent having scored 3 votes to the 1st Appellant’s 2 votes, to the astonishment of the 2nd and 3rd Appellants as well as late Osoku Madugu and the now deceased former 2nd Appellant. They had come into the hall to vote for the 1st Appellant as the new Osoho of Olosoho, but allege they were outwitted through deceit by the officers of the selection exercise. They caused a protest letter to be written on their behalf to the Chairman Obi Local Government Area against the selection exercise. They also caused letters to be written by their Solicitor B.I. Okeke (now deceased) to the Chairman Obi Local Government, the Governor of Nasarawa State, and to the 5th Respondent, with a view to redressing the situation. When their grievances were not addressed, the Appellants instituted the present action before the High Court.   On the other hand, the case of the 1st Respondent was that on the selection day, the five traditional selectors exercised their franchise peacefully. Thereafter, the Presiding Officer declared the 1st Respondent as winner of the selection having scored three votes against the two votes scored by the 1st Appellant. The 1st Respondent as a result emerged as the new Osoho of Olosoho (Agwatashi) Chiefdom and was so appointed by the 4th Respondent. 

The 2nd – 7th Respondents, on their part, denied that there had been any fraud perpetrated by the committee that was set up by the 4th Respondent to conduct the selection exercise. Their case was that the selection exercise was conducted in substantial compliance with the said Legal Notice No. 1 of 2006 (Appointment of Osoho of Olosoho (Agwatashi) Order 2006. They averred that the selection exercise, which was conducted by the Committee without hitches, resulted in the emergence of the 1st Respondent as Osoho of Olosoho (Agwatashi) Chiefdom.  At the conclusion of hearing, the High Court dismissed the claims of the Appellants. Dissatisfied, the Appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:

The Court determined the appeal on these issues couched as follows:

  1. Whether the learned trial Judge was right when he held that the 2nd-4th plaintiff’s have no locus standi to challenge the selection of Osoho of Olosoho (Agwatashi Chiefdom). 

ii. Whether the learned trial Judge was right to have discountenanced the testimonies of 2nd- 4th plaintiffs as PWs 1, 2, 4 on account of his holding that they lacked the locus standi to institute the matter with the 1st Plaintiff. 

iii. Whether the learned trial judge was right when he held that the 2nd-4th plaintiffs did not prove that they were illiterates and that they did not prove how fraud was committed on them in the selection of the Osoho of Olosoho (Agwatashi Chiefdom)

iv. Whether the learned trial Judge was right when he held that the 1st plaintiff’s evidence was hearsay and so was not entitled to judgment.

v. Whether the learned trial Judge was right when he held that the plaintiffs did not prove their case entitling them to judgment.

DECISION/HELD:

On the whole, the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same. The decision of the High Court was set aside. The names of the 2nd and 3rd Appellants were struck out of the suit for lack of locus standi. The matter was remitted to the Chief Judge of Nasarawa State for hearing de novo before another Judge of the same jurisdiction.

 

RATIOS:

  • ACTION- LOCUS STANDI: Guiding principles on locus standi
  • ACTION- LOCUS STANDI: Who has locus standi to institute an action in a Chieftaincy dispute
  • ACTION- ALTERNATIVE CLAIM: When will Court consider an alternative claim
  • ACTION- LOCUS STANDI: Ways in which locus standi may arise in a chieftaincy matter
  • JUDGMENT AND ORDER- ORDER OF RETRIAL/TRIAL DE NOVO: Instances where an order of retrial will be made

lawpavilion • November 28, 2018


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