WHETHER ONCE AN ELECTION CONFORMS TO ITS GUIDELINES, SAME CAN BE HELD TO BE VALID AND CONCLUSIVE
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CASE TITLE: PDP & ORS v. BADAIRE & ORS (2019) LPELR-47063(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 15TH MARCH, 2019
PRACTICE AREA: ELECTORAL MATTERS
LEAD JUDGMENT: HABEEB ADEWALE OLUMUYIWA ABIRU, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on Electoral Matters.
This appeal is against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Maiduguri, Borno State delivered by Honorable Justice M. T. Salihu in Suit No FHC/MG/CS/76/2017 on the 4th of July, 2018.
The first to the fourth Respondents were the plaintiffs in the Federal High Court and the Appellants and the fifth to the tenth Respondents were the first to the twelfth defendants and the action was commenced by an Originating Summons wherein the first to the fourth Respondents posed three questions for determination The case of the first to the fourth Respondents on the affidavits was that the first Appellant conducted its Local Government Congresses elections nationwide, including in Borno State, on the 4th of November 2017 and that following petitions complaining of irregularities in the elections conducted in Gwoza, Shani, Bayo, Maiduguri and Hawul Local Government Areas of Borno State, an Appeal Committee was set up by the first Appellant to look into the complaints. It was their case that the Appeal Committee out-rightly cancelled the elections that took place in Shani Local Government Area and recommended the cancellation of the elections that took place in Gwoza, Bayo, Magumeri and Hawul Local Government Areas of Borno State. In other words, the elections in the five Local Government Areas to select delegates that will participate in the State Congress were cancelled and/or recommended for cancellation; a report signed only by the Secretary of the Appeal Committee was attached as an exhibit. It was their case that the seventh to the tenth Respondents were the officers appointed to conduct the Local Government Congress elections in Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas by the third Appellant, and who was himself appointed by the first and second Appellants.
It was the case of the first to the fourth Respondents that notwithstanding the recommendation of the Appeal Committee, delegates from Gwoza, Magumeri and Hawul Local Government Areas of Borno State participated at the State Congress elections of the first Appellant held in Borno State on the 11th of November, 2017 to elect the State Chairman, State Secretary, State Youth Leader and State Women Leader, despite protests made to the first to the third Appellants, and this was allowed for purpose of manipulating the elections in favour of the fifth and sixth Appellants who were contesting for the offices of State Chairman and State Secretary respectively. It was their case that delegates from twenty-five, out of the twenty-seven Local Government Areas of Borno State, excluding Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas, took part in the State Congress election that took place on the 11th of November, 2017 and that the fourth Appellant announced at the election that 944 delegates were accredited to vote. It was their case that the outcome of the votes cast by the delegates at the election of the 11th of November, 2017 was that the first Respondent scored 525 votes as against the fifth Appellant who scored 477 votes for the office of State Chairman, the second Respondent scored the 493 votes as against the sixth Appellant who scored 486 votes for the office of State Secretary, the third Respondent scored 528 votes against one Alhaji Baba Usman who scored 454 votes for the office of State Youth Leader and the fourth Respondent scored 570 votes against one Hajiya Gambo Barma who scored 419 votes for the office of State Women Leader.
It was the case of the first to the fourth Respondents that the third Appellant refused to release the result of the election at the conclusion of voting on the ground that the delegates from Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas did not participate in the voting and he stated that the results will be not be released until elections were held with the participation of the delegates from the two Local Government Areas. It was their case that by the Guidelines of the first Appellant for the said election, only two thirds of the accredited delegates from the three Senatorial Districts of the State was necessary to form a quorum for the election and that the delegates present at the election of 11th of November, 2017 met and surpassed the required quorum and that their protests to the second Appellant were rebuffed. It was their case that on the 25th of November, 2017, the first to the fourth Appellants proceeded to conduct another Borno State Congress election in Gombe, without notice to them, and that some purported delegates from Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas voted at the election and meanwhile no fresh Local Government Congresses Election was conducted in either Shani or Bayo Local Government Area by the seventh to the tenth Respondents, after the cancellation of the earlier election by the Appeal Committee, to select the accredited delegates prior to this time.
The case of the Appellants in their counter affidavit was that the Ward and Local Government Congress Elections held in Gwoza, Shani, Bayo, Magumeri and Hawul Local Government Areas on the 4th of November, 2017 were free and fair and that the alleged irregularities were not substantial enough to affect the outcome of the election and that none of the results of the election was cancelled and that the Appeals Committee of the first Appellant only made recommendations to the National Caretaker Committee for approval and that the National Caretaker Committee did not approve the recommendations. It was their case that the seventh to the tenth Respondents were not appointed as the electoral and returning officers of Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas and that the persons appointed were Yahaya Mohammed and Adamu Ali for Shani Local Government Area and Yusuf Maina Hassan and Alhaji Idris Sarki for Bayo Local Government Area. It was their case that the Ward Congress Election in Borno State took place from the 28th to the 31st of October, 2017 and that report of the election was submitted to the first Appellant and that a report of the Borno State Congress held on the 11th of November, 2017 was also prepared and by reason which the Election Committee of the Borno State Congress election submitted its report to the National Caretaker Committee for consideration and approval; the reports of the Ward Congress Election and of the State Congress Election were attached as exhibits.
It was their case that all the petitions and complaints arising from the State Congress Elections were considered by the Appeal Panel set up by the first Appellant and that the Appeal Panel submitted its report to the National Caretaker Committee along with its recommendations for confirmation and approval and the report signed by only the Chairman was attached as an exhibit. It was their case that upon a consideration of all the reports, the National Caretaker Committee directed that State Congress Election by the delegates from Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas should be held in Gombe on the 25th of November, 2017 in the presence of INEC officers, Media and Security Agencies and Party Officials and it appointed a five-man election committee to oversee the election. It was their case that the elections were held and that when votes at the election were tallied with the votes from the earlier election of the 11th of November, 2017, the fifth and the sixth Appellants emerged victorious as the State Chairman and State Secretary respectively while the third and fourth Respondents won as the State Youth Leader and State Women Leader; the report of the Election Committee and the result sheets of the election were attached as exhibits.
It was their case that the first to the fourth Respondents were present and were represented by agents at the election conducted in Gombe on the 25th of November, 2017 and that the decision to suspend the election of the 11th of November, 2017 because of the inability of the delegates from Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas to participate in the election was collective because the votes of the number of the delegates had the potential of materially affecting the outcome of the election. It was their case that Shani and Bayo Local Government Areas had authentic lists of delegates for the election; the result sheets for the Ward Elections were attached, and that the scheduling of the election for Gombe was for security reasons. It was their case that no results were declared at the conclusion of the elections held on the 11th of November, 2017 and that the elections were declared inconclusive and to await the outcome of the election by the delegates from the two Local Government Areas.
The case of the fifth to the tenth Respondents on the counter affidavit was that the fifth and sixth Respondents were appointed as the Caretaker Chairmen for Bayo and Shani Local Government Areas respectively by the first and second Appellants with the mandate to run the administrative and political affairs of the first Appellant in the respective Local Government Areas, and the seventh and eighth Respondents were the Returning and the Electoral Officers of Shani Local Government Area and the ninth and the tenth Respondents were Electoral and Returning Officer of Bayo Local Government Areas. It was their case that sometime in October 2017 the first Appellant invited the Caretaker Chairmen of the twenty-seven Local Government Areas of Borno State to the Party Secretariat in Maiduguri to collect materials for the election of Ward and Local Government Executives of the Party and that all the Caretaker Chairmen attended and met with the members of the State Electoral Committee of the first Appellant. It was their case that elections material were given to the Chairmen of twenty-five of the Local Government Areas and no election materials were given to the fifth and sixth Respondents for Bayo and Shani Local Government Areas, despite all the efforts they made to collect the materials. It was their case that by reason of the non-availability of the election materials, no Ward or Local Government election was conducted in either of the two Local Government Areas and thus no delegate was produced in either of the two Local Government Areas for participation in the State Congress Election.
Counsel to the parties filed written addresses on the preliminary objection of the Appellants and on the substantive claim of the first to the fourth Respondents on the Originating Summons. The Federal High Court took arguments on the preliminary objection along with the substantive claims on the Originating Summons and it, in a considered judgment delivered, dismissed the preliminary objection of the Appellants and granted the substantive claims of the first to the fourth Respondents. The Appellants were dissatisfied with the judgment and therefore appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The Court determined the appeal on these issues couched as follows:
- Whether the lower Court had any jurisdiction to entertain the first to the fourth Respondents’ claim bearing in mind that matters relating to party congresses fall within the domestic affairs of political parties.
- Whether in view of the evidence on record, the lower Court was right in law to have granted all the reliefs sought by the Respondents.
On the whole, the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same. The decision of the Federal High Court was set aside. The claims of the first and fourth Respondents were therefore struck out.
- COURT- JURISDICTION: Effect of a court hearing a matter where it has no jurisdiction
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- PRE-ELECTION MATTERS: Whether disputes arising from the conduct of an election by a political party to select its state executive members are a pre-election matter as defined by the Constitution
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- JURISDICTION: Whether Courts have jurisdiction over the domestic affairs of a party as regards disputes arising from the conduct of the election by a political party to select its state executive members
- ELECTORAL MATTERS- ELECTION: Whether once an election conforms to its guidelines, same can be held to be valid and conclusive.