Supreme Court turns down 14 pre-election cases

Supreme Court of Nigeria
Supreme Court of Nigeria

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to hear about 14 pre-election appeals on the grounds that they were caught by the amendment to Section 285 of the constitution, which took effect from June 7 last year.

The amendment to Section 285 of the constitution requires the trial court to determine pre-election cases within 180 days and gives the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court 60 days each to determine such cases.

The section of the constitution also provides that such appeals are filed within 14 days of the delivery of the judgment to be appealed.

On Wednesday, in about 14 different rulings, two panels of the Supreme Court, headed by Ibrahim Mohammed and Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, asked the appellant lawyers, including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Alex Iziyon, to withdraw their appeals.

The court proceeded to strike out each of the appeals and refrained from making any consequential order.

It said since the appeals were caught by the alteration, the court no longer has jurisdiction to act on them or look into them, except striking them out of its list of cases.

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According to the court, the effect of the 4th Alteration Act Number 21 was that all pre-election appeals that were not determined within the stipulated 60 days are no longer valid.

The two panels were assigned to conduct “special court sitting” to clear the court’s list of all pending pre-election appeals relating to the 2015 elections that were still pending before the court.

Mr Mohammed, who headed the first panel, explained that the Supreme Court had in two pre-election appeal’s judgments on January 18, dealt with all issues and questions relating to the 4th Alteration Act and when it became effective.

Mr Muhammed said the judgments, which were in two appeals, SC/307/2018 and SC/308/2018, formed the position of the court in all pre-election appeals and the question as regard when the amendment took effect.

According to Mr Mohammed, “the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear any pre-election appeal that has stayed unheard at the expiration of the constitutional stipulated 60 days.”

Mr Mohammed added that “the new law, being a procedural law, assumes immediate effect.”

On his own position as the head of the second panel, Mr Rhodes-Vivour also reiterated that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the appeals.

He added that “We do not have the power to pronounce on what happens at the lower courts since we lacked the jurisdiction to hear your appeal.”

According to a report by THE NATION newspaper, almost all lawyers to the appellants in the appeals expressed discomfort about the court’s position.

The report also stated that they all also said they have not read the court’s judgments in SC/307/2018 and SC/308/2028, which the Supreme Court said contains its position and the current position of the law on the issue.

The legal counsel, Lazarus Undi, who appeared for an appellant, Benjamin Nungwa, in the appeal marked: SC/112/2018, was particularly unhappy about the court’s position.

Mr Undi said his case was different because his client had anticipated the effect of the new amendment, filed the appeal with 14 days and wrote to the court’s registrar that the appeals fall among cases that must be decided within 60 days.

According to Mr Undi, the delay in determining the appeal with the 60 days was on the part of the court and not the appellant.

Also speaking was Mr Izinyon, who represented the appellant in one of the appeals struck out. He hailed the court for “taking the bull by the horn in dealing with that issue (as it relates to the effect of the 4th Alteration Act on pre-election cases filed before it was assented to) at once”.

Mr Izinyon noted that the court’s position may affect some litigants and lawyers negatively, but expressed optimism that it would benefit all in the long run.

Some of the affected appeals included the one by Atai Aidoko against Isaac Alfa in relation to the dispute over who was the actual candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 election in Kogi East.

The court also struck out a similar appeal filed in the name of the PDP against the Court of Appeal judgment, which upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court, upholding Mr Alfa as the actual candidate of the party.

Also affected was the appeal by Umaru Dahiru and another against All Progressives Congress (APC) and others, in which the appellant is challenging the candidacy of Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, in the 2015 election.

The court also struck out the appeal filed by Wahab Abiodun and four others against a senator, Monsurat Sunmonu and another.

Other appeals struck out are a suit filed by Friday Nwosu against PDP and three others; Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission and another against Augustine N. Ngo and others and Benjamine Nungwa and APC against Joseph Boko and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Also struck out are suits by Ikenna Cyprian Uzokwelu against PDP and suit by Anthony Itayi and another against Abubakar Bagudu and two others.

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