Who is an Aspirant for the Purpose of Having Locus Standi to Contest the Conduct of a Political Party Primaries?

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CASE TITLE: WAZIRI v. PDP & ANOR (2022) LPELR-58803(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE: 19TH SEPTEMBER, 2022

PRACTICE AREA: ELECTORAL MATTERS

LEAD JUDGMENT: HARUNA SIMON TSAMMANI, J.C.A.

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT: 

INTRODUCTION:

This appeal borders on Pre-Electoral Matters.

FACTS:

This appeal is against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, delivered by O. A. Egwuatu, J on the 18th day of July, 2022 in Suit No; FHC/ABJ/CS/657/2022.

By an Originating Summons dated and filed on the 12th day of May, 2022, the Appellant who was the Plaintiff in the trial Court posed certain questions for determination by the trial Court and that if the questions posed were answered in his favour, he was entitled to the following reliefs:

“1. A. DECLARATION that the Plaintiff is duly qualified to contest the Gubernatorial Primary Election of the 1st Defendant in Adamawa State for the selection/election of the 1st Defendant’s candidate for the Governorship election in Adamawa State.

2. A DECLARATION that the 1st Defendant cannot arbitrarily and capriciously disqualify the Plaintiff from contesting the Gubernatorial Primary Election in Adamawa State on grounds other than those stipulated in the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) and to disallow the Plaintiff to participate in the processes leading to the election including failure to issue nomination forms (Forms EC9 and EC9B) is illegal and unconstitutional.

3. A DECLARATION that the 1st Defendant cannot issue the Plaintiff with a certificate of disqualification after the 1st Defendants appeal panel had adjudged and declared the Plaintiff qualified, eligible and cleared him to so contest.

4. A DECLARATION that the purported disqualification of the Plaintiff from contesting the 1st Defendant’s Gubernatorial Primary Election in Adamawa State is unconstitutional, illegal, invalid, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

5. AN ORDER restraining the 1st Defendant from excluding or disallowing the Plaintiff from contesting the Gubernatorial primary election in Adamawa State for the selection of its Gubernatorial Candidate for the 2023 general election in Adamawa State.

6. AN ORDER restraining the 2nd Defendant from accepting the result of any primary election of the 1st Defendant in which the Plaintiff was not allowed to contest.

7. AN ORDER directing the 1st Defendant to allow the Plaintiff to contest the Gubernatorial primary election on its Platform for the 2023 general election.

8. AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendants whether by itself, agents, privies, officers or by whosoever from conducting the forthcoming Gubernatorial primary election for Adamawa State to the exclusion of the Plaintiff.

9. AND FOR SUCH ORDERS OR FURTHER ORDERS that this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance of this case.”

The Appellant’s complaint before the trial Court was that, as a bonafide member of the 1st Respondent (Peoples Democratic Party) he indicated interest in contesting the Governorship election on the platform of the party for Adamawa State. That, he had paid his financial dues to the party and was accordingly cleared to purchase the Governorship nomination form. However, that he was purportedly disqualified by the Gubernatorial Screening Committee of the party on a ground not contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria contrary to the stipulations in Section 84(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022. That he appealed his disqualification to the Gubernatorial Screening Appeal Panel and was cleared by the said Appeal Panel but the National Working Committee of the party disqualified him from contesting at the primaries to choose the candidate of the party for the Governorship election in Adamawa State.

The Respondents did not dispute the fact that the Appellant’s action at the trial Court, is premised upon the “disqualification” of the Appellant by the National Working Committee of the 1st Respondent from participating at the Gubernatorial primary election in Adamawa State. That though the Appellant was cleared by the Appeal Panel, after a thorough investigation, the National Working Committee of the 1st Respondent came to the conclusion that the Appellant was wrongly cleared. That, it is consequent upon such “disqualification” that the Appellant instituted the action at the trial Court.

Upon being served, the 1st Respondent filed a Preliminary Objection to the competence of the suit. The learned trial Judge then heard the Preliminary Objection together with the substantive suit and adjourned for judgment.

Thus, in a judgment delivered on 18/7/2022 the learned trial Judge held that he had no jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit and therefore had same struck out. Having ordered the suit to be struck out, the trial Court declined to determine the substantive suit on its merit. The Appellant was ticked off by the decision and accordingly appealed.

ISSUES:

The Court considered the appeal based on the following issues for determination:

1. Whether the Appellant established that the 1st Respondent contravened any of the guidelines, its constitution, the Electoral Act, 2022 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) to vest the Court with jurisdiction under Section 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

2. Whether the learned trial Judge was right in law when he held that the Appellant is not an aspirant as to come within the provisions of Section 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022 to institute the Suit.

3. Whether the learned trial Judge was right in law when he held that the Appellant lacked the locus standi to institute the suit and that the Appellant’s cause of action is not justiciable.

4. Whether the learned trial Judge, not being a Court of final jurisdiction was right when he declined to make a determination of both Appellant’s substantive suit on its merit and the application to set aside the contentious primary election exercise.

5. Whether the learned trial Judge was right in law when he held that the 1st Respondent’s affidavit evidence deposed to by a Secretary in the law firm of the 1st Respondent’s counsel was not in violation of Section 115 of the Evidence Act.

DECISION/HELD:

The appeal was dismissed for lack of merit.

RATIOS:

  • ELECTORAL MATTERS – CANDIDATE OF A PARTY: Who is an aspirant/candidate of a political party
  • ELECTORAL MATTERS – POLITICAL PARTY: Whether Courts have jurisdiction to intervene in the internal affair of a political party
  • PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – PRELIMINARY OBJECTION: Effect of the success of a preliminary objection to the hearing of an appeal
  • PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – ADDRESS OF COUNSEL: Statutorily prescribed length of written address under the Court of Appeal Rules; effect of failure to comply 

lawpavilion • November 30, 2022


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