Whether Suing a Political Party Automatically Makes its Candidates Parties to the Action422 views
CASE TITLE: COLE v. APC & ORS (2022) LPELR-59154(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 15TH DECEMBER, 2022
PRACTICE AREA: ELECTORAL MATTERS
LEAD JUDGMENT: MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM SIRAJO, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on Electoral Matters.
This appeal emanated from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Judicial Division.
Before the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Judicial Division, the 3rd – 8th Respondents, as Plaintiffs instituted an action by way of Originating Summons against the 1st and 2nd Respondents, as 1st and 2nd Defendants respectively, claiming three declarations and four orders as follows:
1. A DECLARATION that the 1st Defendant, its officials and members are bound by Section 84 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended) which relates to the qualification of aspirant for any election in the Party.
2. A DECLARATION that the Plaintiffs and all other members of the 1st Defendant who paid for Nomination Forms to participate in the 1st Defendant’s 2022 Ward and Local Government Congresses in order to be elected as delegates have the constitutional right to participate in the said Congresses.
3. A DECLARATION that the exclusion of the Plaintiffs by the 1st Defendant from participating in the Party’s Ward and Local Government Congresses that were purportedly held on the 18th and 19th of May, 2022 in Rivers State is unconstitutional, null, void and a denial of the Plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to participate in the election of delegates.
4. AN ORDER setting aside the purported Ward and Local Government Congresses of the 1st Defendant that were purportedly conducted in Rivers State on the 18th and 19th of May, 2022 or any other date in exclusion of the Plaintiffs.
5. AN ORDER setting aside the primary election of the 1st Defendant held in Rivers State for the election of the 1st Defendant’s candidates for offices of Governor of Rivers State, Members of National Assembly and State House of Assembly conducted following the exclusion of the Plaintiffs from participating in the purported Ward and Local Government Congresses of the 1st Defendant of May 18th and 19th 2022.
6. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the 2nd Defendant from recognizing, acting on or accepting the result of the said Ward and Local Government Congresses of the 1st Defendant that were purportedly held on the 18th and 19th of May, 2022 or any other date.
7. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the 2nd Defendant from recognizing, or in any way acting upon the Rivers State purported primary elections of the 1st Defendant conducted based on the result of the alleged Ward and Local Government Congresses of the 1st Defendant of May 18th and 19th 2022 in Rivers State that excluded the Plaintiffs from participation.
And for such Order(s) as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.
In response, the 1st Respondent filed a counter-affidavit in opposition to the action and a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the action by way of Motion on Notice. The 2nd Respondent, as 2nd Defendant, did not file any process against the suit at the lower Court. There was an attempt by one Chijemezu Welendu Mmanhobu-Amadi and Frank Womeodu to join the suit as 3rd and 4th Defendants (for themselves and representing elected delegates of Ward one Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State), via a motion for joinder filed on 10/08/2022.
The learned trial Judge heard the application for joinder, the preliminary objection and the substantive Originating Summons together. In a judgment delivered on 25/10/2022, the lower Court dismissed both the application for joinder and the preliminary objection and granted all the reliefs claimed by the Plaintiffs, now 3rd – 8th Respondents, even though it has not gone into the merits of the case. The trial Court ended its judgment in favour of the respondent.
Aggrieved by the decision of the trial Court which affected his rights and interest, the Appellant, who was the Rivers State Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, the 1st Respondent, sought for and obtained leave of the Court of Appeal to appeal as an interested party, having not been a party to the suit at the trial Court. Consequent to the leave granted him, the Appellant challenged the judgment of the trial Court.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:
The Court of Appeal determined the appeal based on the following issues formulated by the appellant:
1. Whether the lower Court did not breach the Appellant’s right to a fair hearing when it proceeded to determine the suit and make findings that affected the Appellant’s interest in the absence of the Appellant and without affording the Appellant the opportunity of being heard?
2. Whether the lower Court had jurisdiction to entertain and adjudicate over the suit as between the 3rd – 8th Respondents (Plaintiffs at the lower Court) and the 1st and 2nd Respondents (1st and 2nd Defendants at the lower Court), the 3rd – 8th Respondents having not satisfied the conditions precedent for instituting the suit.
3. Whether the 3rd – 8th Respondents have the locus standi to institute the suit at the lower Court not being members of the 1st Respondent and having not participated in the 1st Respondent’s primary elections and if not, whether the lower Court was right to have determined the issues raised in the substantive suit in the absence of the 3rd – 8th Respondents’ standing to sue?
4. Whether the lower Court pre-judged the substantive suit at the interlocutory stage, and if yes, whether the judgment of the lower Court has not occasioned a miscarriage of justice?
In conclusion, the appeal was allowed.
- ELECTORAL MATTERS – POLITICAL PARTY PRIMARY: Principle of law as regards locus standi; Whether a party who did not participate in a primary election has the locus standi to institute an action against it
- ELECTORAL MATTERS – POLITICAL PARTY: Whether a Congress of a political party is a pre-election matter and justiciable in law
- ELECTORAL MATTERS – POLITICAL PARTY: Whether suing a political party automatically makes its candidates parties to the action