Bashir Mohammed Dalhatu V. Ibrahim Saminu Turaki & Ors (2003)
LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report
I. KATSINA-ALU, J.S.C.
On the 10th day of April, 2003, I dismissed this appeal and indicated that I would give my reasons today. I now give my reasons. The plaintiff by a writ of summons dated 8th day of January, 2003, commenced an action against the defendants before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The plaintiff in the action claimed against the defendants the following reliefs:
- A declaration that purported return of the 1st defendant Ibrahim Saminu Turaki as the 2003 ANPP gubernatorial candidate for Jigawa State is unconstitutional, void and that the return was and still is a violation of the plaintiff’ right of fair hearing, right to be elected for any elective office.
- An injunction restraining the respondents from interfering with the aforesaid rights of the plaintiff.
- And any other relief and/or reliefs as this Honorable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
The issues involved in this appeal are simple and straightforward. I shall therefore concern myself with the facts material to the consideration of the questions presented for determination.
From the facts before the trial court, two things happened. The All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) scheduled all its primary elections to hold on the 3rd day of January, 2003. This is not in dispute. In the case of Jigawa State, the primary elections were to hold in Dutse, Jigawa State Capital. A committee with Chief Nnoruka as Chairman, Hajiya Nahibi as member and Arc. Joseph as Secretary conducted the screening and the primary election in Kano in which the 1st defendant did not take part. Only the appellant Bashir Mohammed Dalhatu did. He was naturally declared the winner by the committee.
Meanwhile another primary election was conducted in Dutse, Jigawa State Capital in which the 1st defendant participated. The appellant did not. The 1st defendant was the winner. The result of the election was released to the ANPP by the chairman of the election committee. The ANPP recognized the same and duly announced the 1st defendant as the winner and issued him a certificate of such recognition on the 7th day of January, 2003. It was as a result of this state of affairs that the appellant took out a writ of summons on the 8th January, 2003, challenging the recognition of the 1st defendant as the gubernatorial candidate for Jigawa State.
The appellant filed two motions along with the writ: a motion ex parte for interim injunction and a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction. The learned trial Judge granted the ex parte injunction on 8th January, 2003.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants on 14th day of January, 2003 filed a notice of preliminary objection as to jurisdiction which was dismissed on 22nd January, 2003.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants appealed against the dismissal of their preliminary objection. They also applied by motion for a stay of execution pending appeal.
Stay was refused.
On 30th January, 2003 the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants applied to the Court of Appeal for a stay of proceedings pending appeal. The motion was fixed for hearing on 5th of February, 2003. The trial court’s attention was drawn to this motion but inspite of that it proceeded with the hearing of the case and on 5th of February, 2003, it gave judgment for the appellant.
The defendants’ appeal to the Court of Appeal was allowed.
This appeal by the plaintiff is against that judgment.
The parties filed their respective briefs of argument. Based on his grounds of appeal, the appellant has submitted at p. 4 of his brief of argument three issues for determination, to wit:
“1. Whether the principles of the Supreme Court decision in Onuoha v. Okafor & Oths (1983) 14 NSCC 494, a case based purely on selection rather than election of candidate and which was decided under a different constitution, with different provisions governing the two different cases, can oust the jurisdiction of a court of law from entertaining this action
- Whether, in view of the provisions of Order 10 rule 4 of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (Civil Procedure Rules), 1991, the court below was right in striking out the plaintiff’s claim on the ground that the trial court lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the action.
- Whether, having regard to the subsisting order of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the appellants’ (now respondents) brief of argument must be based upon settled records of appeal, the judgment now appealed against, based upon the brief, which was not based upon the said settled record is not a nullity.”
For their part, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants who filed a joint brief of argument, also submitted three issues for determination. They read as follows:
- Whether having regard to the decision of the Supreme Court in Onuoha v. Okafor & Oths (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; (1983) 14 NSCC 494, a court of law can validly assume jurisdiction in a case to elect or select a candidate for a political party in its internal affair or nominate him for sponsorship in an election.
- Whether in view of the provisions of Order 10 rules 4(1) and (2) of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (Civil Procedure Rules), 1991, the court below was not right in striking out the appellant’s claim on the ground that the trial court lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the action.
- Whether the court below acted properly when it proceeded to hear the appeal before it having made an order by consent of the parties that they are at liberty to provide other documents that they may wish to file on or by Wednesday, 19th February, 2003.
The 4th defendant raised two issues in his brief of argument which read:
- Whether having regard to the facts of the appellant’s case and the state of law in Nigeria today, a court of law can make an order directing the 4th respondent to sponsor the appellant in preference to the 1st respondent or any other person as its gubernatorial candidate for the April, 2003 general elections in Jigawa State.
- Whether the order of the lower court alleged by the appellant was ever made, if yes, whether the appellant has not waived any right he may have had to complain by filing his respondent’s brief based on the record before the lower court as well as taking other steps in the proceedings before the lower court.
The 5th defendant, for his part, submitted two issues for determination, to wit:
- Whether the claims of the plaintiff appellant were sufficiently targeted at getting the All Nigeria Peoples Party to sponsor him as its gubernatorial candidate for Jigawa State so as to justify the invocation by the Court of Appeal of the principles in Onuoha v. Okafor & Oths (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; (1983) 14 NSCC 494.
- Whether the trial court lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs’ claim.
The 6th defendant raised only one issue at p.1 of its brief of argument:
“Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in law and on the facts in holding that the effect of the decision of the Supreme Court in Onuoha v. Okafor & Oths (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; (1983) 14 NSCC 494 is that once a matter pertains to the internal dispute of a Political Party, the courts have no jurisdiction.”
The central issue in this appeal is the appellant’s issue No.1. This issue has been raised by all the parties in their respective briefs of argument. It is whether having regard to the decision of the Supreme Court in Onuoha v. Okafor & Oths (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; (1983) 14 NSCC 494 a court of law can validly assume jurisdiction in a case to elect or select a candidate for a political party in its internal affair or nominate him for sponsorship in an election.
The kernel of the arguments for the plaintiff is that the facts of Onuoha v. Okafor are distinguishable from the facts and law applicable to the present case. It was said that in Onuoha’s case there was no question of contesting for an election but that it was a pure case of a panel of 10 members set up by the political party to select its candidates for senatorial seats in accordance with the party’s own constitution. Learned senior counsel endeavoured to distinguish between selection of a candidate and election of a candidate.
For the defendants it was said that the thrust of the plaintiff’s claim was for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, particularly 4th defendant, from recognizing the gubernatorial primary election result which took place in Dutse, Jigawa State Capital on 3rd January, 2003 which declared the 1st defendant as the winner of the said election. It was also for an order declaring the plaintiff as the only legally recognized ANPP gubernatorial candidate for the 2003 Governorship election in Jigawa State. What was before the trial court for decision was whether in view of the Supreme Court decision in Onuoha v. Okafor (supra) the court had jurisdiction to entertain the claim. Learned senior counsel for 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants submitted that the court is not an appellate body set up by the party under its constitution to hear appeals from unsuccessful candidates in the nomination and sponsorship exercise within the party.
Let us recall the facts of and the decision in Onuoha’s case. The plaintiff brought an action to compel his political party – NPP to nominate and sponsor him for election to a senatorial seat. The action was instituted in the High Court, which found in favour of the plaintiff. The defendants appealed against the decision of the trial High Court to the Federal Court of Appeal, contending that a court of law ought not to entertain an action to determine whom a political party should or should not sponsor. The appeal was allowed and, the action was dismissed. The plaintiff appealed to this court.
This court dismissed the appeal of the plaintiff. Obaseki, J.S.C. who delivered the leading judgment stated and held at various stages in the course of his judgment at pages 501, 503, 504 and 505 of the report as follows:
“The issue raised in this appeal before us, is, in my opinion, as stated by learned counsel for the respondents, i.e. whether the court ought to make an order directing the NPP to sponsor the appellant as against the 3rd respondent.
The answer to the question so raised must, in my view, be in the negative. A positive or an affirmative answer will instantly project or propel the court into the area of jurisdiction to run and manage political parties and politicians. Can the court decide which of the two candidates can best represent the political interest of the NPP. In all honesty, I, think the court will in so doing be deciding a political question which it is ill fitted to do.”
“Implicit in the right to canvass for votes for a candidate is the right to sponsor and the right to withhold sponsorship from a candidate or not to sponsor a candidate for election.
The question that therefore arises is whether the court can justifiably interfere under any guise with the free exercise of this right by a political party. I think it cannot in law do so.”
“The exercise of this right is the domestic affair of the N.P.P. guided by its constitution. There are no judicial criteria or yardstick to determine which candidate a political party ought to choose and the judiciary is therefore unable to exercise any judicial power in the matter. It is a matter over which it has no jurisdiction. The question of the candidate a political party will sponsor is more in the nature of a political question which the courts are not qualified to deliberate upon and answer.”
“The failure to sponsor the appellant cannot be said to be in breach or ultra vires the powers of the N.P.P because the appellant won the nullified nomination or because the appellant paid N5,000.00 to contest the nomination.”