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Home » Nigerian Cases » Supreme Court » Mallam Abubakar Abubakar & Ors. V. Saidu Usman Nasamu & Ors (2012) LLJR-SC

Mallam Abubakar Abubakar & Ors. V. Saidu Usman Nasamu & Ors (2012) LLJR-SC

Mallam Abubakar Abubakar & Ors. V. Saidu Usman Nasamu & Ors (2012)

LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report

ONNOGHEN, J.S.C.

The consolidated appeals arose from the decision of the Court of Appeal, Holden at Sokoto in appeal no. CA/S/EPT/GOV/31/2011 delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011 in which the court allowed the appeals of the 1st and 2nd respondents against the Judgment of the Kebbi State Governorship election tribunal and dismissed the cross appeal of the appellants. The lower court did not give the reasons for the decision along with the decision neither was the reason given within the fourteen (14) days allowed appellants to filed their notice of appeal nor within the sixty (60) days allowed the lower court to hear and determined appeals from election tribunal.

The judgment in the appeal was said to have been given on 29th December, 2011 while the reasons for the judgment was given on 23rd January, 2012. Appeal no. SC/14/2012 is therefore against the judgment in respect of the appeal brought before the lower court by the present 1st and 2nd respondents i.e. SAIDU USMAN NASAMU and IBRAHIM KHALIL ALIYU the Governorship and Deputy Governorship candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Kebbi State Governorship election held on 20th April, 2011.

The facts of the case are straight forward and include the following:-

On the 26th day of April, 2011 Governorship election into the Office of Governors of various states in Nigeria including Kebbi State, were held. At the election, 1st and 2nd appellants were sponsored by 3rd appellant Congress for Progressive Change while 1st and 2nd respondents were the candidates of 3rd respondent, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The 4th respondent is the body constitutionally assigned the role of conducting national elections by which I except election into offices in local government councils.

At the conclusion of the election, the 4th respondent declared the 1st and 2nd respondents winners of the election into the Office of Governor and Deputy Governor of Kebbi State haven scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the election and fulfilled all other constitutional requirements.

Appellants were not satisfied with that result and challenged same at the tribunal on 18th May, 2011 vide an election petition, contending that the election was not conducted incompliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Election Manual in that there was no due election. The respondents’ contention is that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and Election Manual and that all relevant forms were used in strict compliance with the laws and regulations.

At the conclusion of trial, the tribunal held that 4th respondent failed to establish proper conduct of the election vide actual or proper distribution of ballot papers and ballot boxes and other sensitive electoral materials which failure was fatal to the conduct of the election; that the hand written entries on plain sheets of paper – exhibits Kebbi State ten (10) and Kebbi State Eleven (11) in place of the prescribed statutory forms is of no evidential value as the statutory forms are key to proper conduct of creditable election. The tribunal consequently nullified the election and ordered a proper election to be conducted.

The decision resulted in all the respondents appealing separately against same while appellants cross appeal which appeals were consolidated by order of court made on 28th December, 2011 and heard according. The judgment was adjourned to 29th December, 2011. The judgment is in the following terms!

“1st set of appeal succeed, and is allowed. 2nd set of appeal succeed and is allowed. 3rd set of appeal is succeed (sic) and is allowed. Cross appeal lacks merit and is dismissed the judgment and order of the tribunal delivered on 13th November, 2011 in petition No. EPT/KR/GOV/1/2011 is set aside”.

No reason(s) for the above decision was given until 23rd January, 2012. Appeal no. SC/14/2011 is therefore against the decision of the lower court allowing the appeal if the 1st set of appellants i.e. 1st and 2nd respondents herein. The issues for determination in SC/14/2011 are, as stated in the amended appellants’ brief deemed filed on 7th February, 2012, as follows:-

“1. Whether the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on the 29th days of December, 2011 is nullity, the Court of Appeal having not advanced or provided reasons for same at the time the judgment was delivered …

  1. Whether the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to give, advance or profer reasons for the judgment delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011, on 23rd day of January, 2012 having not disposed of the appellant’s appeal within a period of sixty (60) days from the date of delivery of the judgment of the tribunal……
  2. Whether the lower court not being a final Court of Appeal in respect of governorship elections has jurisdiction to give or reserve the reasons for its judgment to a later date….
  3. Whether having regards to the circumstances of this case, including the totality of evidence and states of pleadings, the lower court were right in setting aside the judgment of the tribunal which nullified the election of the 1st and 2nd respondents and ordered fresh elections.”

Appeal no. SC/14A/2012 is against the decision of the lower court allowing the appeal if the 2nd set of appellants whose uses for determination has been identified as follows:-

“1. Whether the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011 is a nullity, the Court of Appeal having not advanced or provided reasons for same at the time the judgment was delivered.

  1. Whether the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to give, advance or profer reasons for the judgment delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011, on 23rd day of January, 2012 having not disposed of the appellant’s appeal within a period of sixty (60) days from the date of delivery of the judgment of the tribunal.
  2. Whether the lower court not being a final Court of Appeal in respect of governorship elections has jurisdiction to give or reserve the reasons for it judgment to a later date.
  3. Whether the lower court was right when it held that the tribunal ought not to have considered appellants alternative relief”.

Appeal no. SC/14B/2012 is against the decision of the lower court allowing the appeal of the 3rd set of appellants which the issues for determination of both are as follows:-

“1. Whether the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011 is a nullity, the Court of Appeal having not advanced or provided reasons for same at the time the judgment was delivered.

  1. Whether the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to give, advance or profer reasons for the judgment delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011, on 23rd day of January, 2012 having not disposed of the appellant’s appeal within a period of sixty (60) days from the date of delivery of the judgment of the tribunal.
  2. Whether the lower court not being a final Court of Appeal in respect of governorship elections has jurisdiction to give or reserve the reason for its judgment to a later date.
  3. Whether having regard to the circumstances of this case, including the totality of evidence and state of pleadings, the lower court were right in setting aside the judgment of the tribunal which nullified the election of the 1st and 2nd respondents and ordered fresh elections”.

Finally, the issues for determination in SC/14C/2012, which is an appeal against the decision of the lower court dismissing appellants’ cross appeal are stated as follows:-

“1. Whether the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011 is not a nullity, the Court of Appeal having not advanced or provided reasons for same at the time the judgment was delivered.

  1. Whether the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to give, advance or profer reasons for the judgment delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011, on 23rd January, 2012 having not disposed of the appellants’ appeal within a period of sixty (60) days from the date of the delivery of the judgment of the tribunal…
  2. Whether the lower court not being a final Court of Appeal in respect of governorship elections has jurisdiction to give or reserve the reasons for its judgment to a later date….
  3. Whether the lower court was right in affirming the tribunal’s finding on the probative value of the Report of Inspection of electoral materials and evidence of PW.46…
  4. Whether the lower court was right in not holding that the tribunal ought to have granted the main reliefs sought in the petition and declare that the 1st appellant and not the 1st cross-respondent was duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast in the governorship election for Kebbi State held on the 27th day of April, 2011…”
See also  S.Y. Eke V The Midwestern Nigeria Development Corporation (1968) LLJR-SC

It can be observed that Issues 1 to 3 in the four appeals are the same while Issue 4 in the four appeals and 5 in SC/14C/2012 are issues formulated essentially by way of alternatives to Issues 1 – 3.

In other words if a resolution of Issues I to 3 is in favour of the appellants there will be no need to proceed to determine Issues 4 and 5 as the earlier determination would be sufficient to disposed of the appeals. In reality Issues 4 and 5 deal with the merits of the decision on appeal while Issues 1 to 3 deal with the competence/jurisdiction of the lower court to deliver the judgment in the circumstances of the case. If the lower court is found to have been incompetent or to lack the vires, jurisdiction to decide the appeal as and when it did then the decision is a nullity same haven been rendered without jurisdiction and there will be no legal need to proceed to decide whether the said decision of the lower court was correct in law and/or facts. That is all that I have been trying to say.

Secondly, I wish to observe that the court has recently been bombarded with proliferation of appeals by dissatisfied litigants arising from a single decision of the lower court in circumstances where a single appeal would be more than sufficient to dispose of the issue(s) in controversy between the parties and thereby save the time, energy and costs involved in litigation. Rather than have a single appeal, and where appropriate a cross appeal, we now have the practice of virtually all respondents, whose defence to the petition are not radically different, now filing separate appeals against the decision of the lower court and ending up formulating the same issues for determination. As a consequence of the current trend you now see two or more, sometimes six appeals, being consolidated to be dealt with accordingly. It may be profitable to the legal practitioners involved to have proliferation of appeals as same may enhance their Bill of Charges, but the development does not add anything to the development of the law apart from being a waste of time and resources. It also adds to the stressful situation the appellate courts are now exposed to in the determination of appeals arising from election petitions which is now subject to limitation of time. Is it not a wise saying that repetition does not improve an argument

Looking closely, however, at the issues formulated in the various appeals and having regards to the decision of the lower court, only two issues are needed to determine the appeals, one each on the competence/jurisdiction, of the lower court and the merit of the decision appealed against. The issues may be formulated thus:-

  1. Whether in view of the provisions of Sections 285(7) & (8) and 294(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the judgment of the lower court delivered on the 29th day of December, 2011 in respected of which the reasons for the decision was given on the 23rd day of January, 2012, is a nullity and,
  2. Whether or having regards to the totality of the pleadings and evidence on record, the lower court was right in setting aside the judgment of the tribunal which nullified the decision of the 1st and 2nd respondents and ordered fresh election and whether the said court was right in dismissing the cross appeal.

I intend to deal with the consolidated appeals in line with the two issues formulated above in the understanding that Issue no.2 will only be gone into if Issue no. 1 is resolved against the appellants – that is an alternative, to Issue no. 1. To confirm the fact that there are really two main issues for consideration learned senior counsel for appellants Kola Awodein, SAN leading other Senior Advocates of Nigeria, argued Issues 1 – 3 together in the amended appellants briefs.

It is the submission of learned senior counsel that the lower court relied on the provisions of Section 285(8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended (hereinafter referred to as the 1999 Constitution as amended) to deliver a judgment on 29th December, 2011 without giving reasons for same which learned senior counsel contends is unconstitutional and consequently a nullity particularly as the lower court is not the final Court of Appeal in a governorship election petition matters; that only the Supreme Court to which appeals against decisions of the lower court on governorship election petition matters now terminate can exercise the powers conferred by Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; that the judgment of the lower court rendered on 29th December, 2011 is invalid as the same was given without reasons and that the court had no jurisdiction when it sat and delivered the reasons for the decision on 23rd January, 2012 as the sixty (60) days granted the court under Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to hear and determine the appeal had lapsed by that date, and urged the court to resolve the issue against the respondents and make a consequential order that the ninety (90) days ordered by the tribunal within which a fresh election should be held, haven lapsed in the process of the exercise of rights of appeal, this court should order same to be held within ninety (90) days of the decision of this court.

The contention of the respondents in relation to the issue under consideration is that the lower court is constitutionally empowered to give a decision of judgment in an appeal against a final decision in an election petition and reserve the reasons for a later date, as provided under Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, that the lower court heard and disposed of the appeal on 29th December, 2011 which was within the sixty (60) days allotted to a judgment of the tribunal delivered on 13th November, 2011; that interpreting the provisions of Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the operative words are “the court in all final appeals” and the “final appeals” “must be read and understood within the con of an appeal against the final decision of an election tribunal in contrast to an interlocutory appeal”; that the decision of the tribunal appealed against was a final decision delivered on 13th November, 2011 as a result of which Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution is applicable to the lower court; that to adopt the interpretation of the appellants is to import into the provision what is not there as the legislature did not expressly limit the provision to the final court to which appeals lie from the decision of an election tribunal.

It is also the contention of the respondents that the provisions of Section 285 (7) of the said 1999 Constitution were also complied with by the decision of 29th December, 2011 as what lower court did on 23rd January, 2012 was to give reasons for the decision for disposing of the appeal on 29th December, 2011; that the emphasis in Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution is on “final appeals” as against the court entertaining the appeals; that if the law makers had intended to limit the time within which the reasons for the decision were to be given, they would have stated so expressly and specifically; that appellants did not suffer any miscarriage of justice neither were they prejudiced by the procedure adopted in delivering the judgment as prescribed in Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution. The court is urged to resolve the issue against appellants and dismiss the appeals.

It is not in dispute that the judgment of the lower court setting aside the decision of the tribunal delivered on 13th November, 2011 was rendered by the lower court on the 29th day of December, 2011 and that the reasons for the said decision of 29th December, 2011 was given by that court on the 23rd day of January, 2012. From the above facts, it is clear that between the 13th day of November, 2011 and 23rd day of January, 2012 is about seventy-one (71) days.

Prior to the amendment to the 1999 Constitution the Court of Appeal was the last bus stop in appeals against decisions of the election tribunals in relation to Governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections. However, by the provisions of Section 233 (2) (e) (iv) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, decisions of the Court of Appeal on any question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the Office of Governor or Deputy Governor of a state under the constitution is now appealable to the Supreme Court. Therefore this court, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, is now the final Court of Appeal (bus stop) in appeals on decisions as to whether any person is validly elected governor or deputy governor of a state, under the constitution.

See also  Ireju Nwokidu And Ors V Mark Okanu (2010) LLJR-SC

However, decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of appeals arising from the National and State Houses of Assembly election petitions continue to terminate at the Court of Appeal by virtue of the provisions of Section 246 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which enacts thus:-

“The decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of appeals arising from the National and State Houses of Assembly election petitions shall be final”.

So in relation to appeals on election matter, it is clear and I hereby hold that there are two courts constitutionally clothed with final jurisdiction to hear and determine same. These are:-

(1) The Court of Appeal in relation to National and State Houses of Assembly election petitions, and,

(2) The Supreme Court of Nigeria in respect of decisions of the Court of Appeal on the question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the Office of Governor or Deputy Governor under the constitution.

The other relevant and crucial provisions of the constitution to the determination of the issue under consideration are Sections 285(7) and 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. They provide as follows:-

“285(7)

An appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or Court of Appeal in on election matter shall be heard and disposed of within sixty (60) days from the date of the delivery of judgment of the tribunal or Court of Appeal.

285 (8)

The court, in all final appeals from an election tribunal or court may adopt the practice of first giving its decision and reserving the reasons therefore to a later date”.

The question is, what do subsections (7) and (8) of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, mean in relation to the facts of this case and the issue under consideration. It is very clear that the two sub-sections apply to both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in the exercise of the appellate jurisdiction conferred on them by the constitution in relation to election matters. From sub-section (7) supra, the duty is imposed on both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to hear and dispose of appeals arising from the decisions of an election tribunal or Court of Appeal within sixty (60) days of the delivery of the said judgment.

In exercising or performing the above duty, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court may, where the appeals are final appeals adopt the practice of first giving their decision and reserving the reasons for the said decisions to a later date.

The contention between the parties in the appeals has to do with the expression “hear and disposed of within sixty (60) days” and “…. all final appeals…” Whereas appellants contend that both the decision and reasons for the said decisions must be given by the Court of Appeal within sixty (60) days of the date of delivery of the judgment by the tribunal and that the Court of Appeal can only adopt the practice of giving judgment and deferring the reasons to a later date where it is a final Court of Appeal – as in the case of National and State Houses of Assembly election petitions the respondents argue that the power of the Court of Appeal under subsection (8) of Section 285 is not so limited but extends to all appeals against final decisions of the election tribunals in contradistinction to the decisions rendered by those tribunals in interlocutory matters.

It is settled law that the object of interpreting statute or the constitution is to discover the intention of the legislature, which intention is usually deduced from the language used in the statute or constitution. Therefore where words used in the constitutional provisions are clear and unambiguous they must be given their ordinary plain meaning so as to avoid reading into the provisions meanings not intended by the lawmakers. The above clearly means that where the words used in the provision are clear and unambiguous, the question of interpretation becomes a non issue as there is nothing to be interpreted or constructed as the court is duty bound to assign the words used in the provision their ordinary plain meanings.

In my judgment, the words deployed by the legislature in Section 285(7) and (8) of the 1999 Constitution are very simple and straight forward and unambiguous and therefore admit of no special construction or interpretation. They simply mean what they plainly stated. Subsection (7) of Section 285 means simply that it is obligatory on the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court to hear and determine an appeal arising from an election petition matter within sixty (60) days from the date of the delivery of judgment by the election tribunal or Court of Appeal. The provision makes no distinction between an interlocutory decision of the tribunal and the final decision of the tribunal or Court of Appeal. Also to be noted is the use of the words “shall” and “within” in the said subsection which means that the provision is mandatory as it admits of no discretion whatsoever. The word “within” means a decision rendered by the affected court outside the assigned sixty (60) days is null and void. It is settled law that the time fixed by the constitution, which is the fundamental or supreme law of the land, cannot be altered, extended, expanded, elongated etc by any court in the purported exercise of a discretion to that effect.

When Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) talks of a decision of a court it means the decision and the reasons for that decision. A decision is arrived at through a demonstrable process of reasoning based on the facts proven in evidence and the applicable law. It follows therefore that a decision without the reasons for same is in law, no decision at all. Therefore when Section 285(7) of the said 1999 Constitution assigned sixty (60) days within which an appeal must be heard and disposed of (concluded) decided/determined, it clearly means that both the decision/judgment/determination etc of the court and the reasons for same must be given by the court concerned within the assigned sixty (60) days or less but not more.

Turning now to Section 285(8) of the said 1999 Constitution, the words “the court” used in the opening of the subsection refers, in my judgment to both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court depending on the facts of the case. The Court of Appeal when it sits as the final Court of Appeal such as in appeals arising from the decisions of election tribunals in relation to National and State Houses of Assembly elections, and the Supreme Court when it sits to determine appeals arising from the decisions of the Court of Appeal in relation to governorship election petition matters. The expression “final appeals” therefore do not relate to final decisions of the election tribunals as canvassed by the respondents’ in contradistinction with their decisions on interlocutory matters. The words relate to the final court beyond which there is no further appeal; the last chance/bus-stop.

What does the expression or phrase “all final appeals” as used in Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended mean The expression is not defined in the constitution neither has it been interpreted by this court before now. To get to the meaning of the expression, it is necessary to know what the words “final” and “appeal” mean.

“Final” as defined by Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged Second Edition at page 686 – 687 includes:

a. 1. Pertaining to the end or conclusion; last; ultimate; as the final issue….

  1. Conclusive, decisive; determinative; as a final judgment… that which is the termination; the last”.

While the word “appeal” is defined by the said dictionary at page 88 to include the following:

“1. In law, the removal of a case from a lower to a higher court for hearing, or the right to, or a request for, such action…”

When the meanings of the two words are combined, what the expression means, becomes very obvious. In my judgment the expression means all appeals after which there is no further appeal to a higher court or tribunal, or decisions by a final Court of Appeal, or the last bus stop in the appeal route after which everything or appeal terminates/is at end.

See also  Martin Schroder And Co. V. Major And Company (Nigeria) Ltd. (1989) LLJR-SC

It should be noted that the expression as used in Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution as amended is tied to “the court” which has to take the requisite action in relation to “all final appeals”.

It should be noted also that it is an already long time practice of the Supreme Court, in the exercise of its jurisdiction, to adopt the practice of giving judgment while reserving the reasons for the judgment to a later date. The practice is therefore not novel to the Supreme Court though the same cannot be said of the Court of Appeal. For the Court of Appeal, it a novel practice, hence the apparent confusion.

However, over the years that the practice had been adopted and practiced in the Supreme Court, I state without fear of contradiction that there is no record of any decision/judgment of the court rendered in the circumstances envisaged in Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution in which the reasons for same were given outside the normal ninety (90) days from the conclusion of evidence and final addresses as provided under Section 294(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, neither is there any record of the reason for a decision of this court being given more than sixty (60) days from the date of the decision of the Court of Appeal in election matters so far. There is therefore no precedent in support of the contention of the respondents on this issue.

What subsection 8 of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended is saying in relation to the facts of this case is simply that an appeal, where the Court of Appeal is the final Court of Appeal, such as in appeals relating to National and State Houses of Assembly election petition matters, the Court of Appeal, like the Supreme Court, may adopt the practice of giving its decision but deferring the reasons for the said decision to a later date not exceeding the time constitutionally allotted the court to hear and dispose of or determine/decide the matter. The decision and the reasons for the decision both constitute the judgment of the court and must go hand in hand, and must come within the time allotted in the constitution for both to be valid and subsisting.

In the instant case the Court of Appeal is not the final Court of Appeal in governorship election petition matters and therefore has no power under Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution to give a decision and defer the reasons to a later date let alone to a date outside the sixty (60) days constitutionally assigned for the hearing and disposal of the matter.

However, does the rendering of the decision outside the sixty (60) days necessarily result in the decision being a nullity

Our attention has been drawn to the provisions of Section 294(5) of the 1999 Constitution which provides as follows:-

“(5) the decision of a court shall not be set aside or treated as a nullity solely on the ground of non-compliance with the provisions of subsection (1) of this section unless the court exercising jurisdiction by way of appeal or review of that decision is satisfied that the party complaining has suffered a miscarriage of justice by reason thereof”.

Subsection (1) of Section 294 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, like Section 285(7) of the said Constitution allots time within which the judgment of a court must be delivered, which, in that case is ninety (90) days, while in Section 285 (7) it is sixty (60) days.

The question that necessarily follows is whether the provisions of Section 294(5) of the 1999 Constitution supra applies to the facts of this case or to courts exercising jurisdiction under Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended I think not.

Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended is a specific provision which deals with election petition matters which has long been held to be suis generis. On the other hand, Section 294 is a general provision dealing with civil proceedings and judgments thereon generally.

It is settled law that in the circumstance of this case, the specific provisions in relation to election matters must prevail or apply to the judgment in question and not the general provision in Section 294 which applies to civil proceedings in general. The said Section 294 has no relationship with election petition matters as against the provisions of Section 285 of the said 1999 Constitution, as amended.

Apart from the said Section 285, the other relevant section of the 1999 Constitution relating to election petition proceedings/matters is Section 246(1)(b)(3). It is therefore my view that Section 294(5) applies in relation to the provisions of Section 294(1) only, both of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

I therefore resolve the issue in favour of the appellants.

The above being the case, it is clear that the second issue has been rendered irrelevant as there is no need for the court to go into a consideration of the merits of the judgment which has just been found to be a nullity as such a consideration would amount to an exercise in futility. The said issue is consequently discountenanced by me.

It should be pointed out that by the 28th day of December, 2011 when the appeal was heard, the lower court still had up to the 12th day of January, 2012 to deliver the judgment since the judgment of the tribunal was delivered on the 13th day of November, 2011. The lower court, however, decided to give judgment the following day, 29th December, 2011 and deferred the reasons for the decision to a later date. The lower court therefore had about two weeks from 28th December, 2011 to 12th January, 2012 to deliver judgment with reasons, which would have brought it within the sixty (60) days stipulated in Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The instant appeal was heard on Thursday, 16th February, 2012 and judgment adjourned to today, Friday 24th February, 2012 about a week, even though the sixty (60) days would be Tuesday, 28th February, 2012. The judiciary has no option but to try to work within the time frame provided by the law and/or constitution so as to move our democracy forward. Many attempts would be made to frustrate the aims and objectives of the legislature in providing the time frame within which election matters must be heard and disposed of but it is our duty to resist the attempts by putting in our best in the circumstances. To achieve the aim, we need not write lengthy judgments nor consider irrelevant issues. We need to consider the main issues in the case and resolve same in as short a judgment as possible. The real judgment in an election matter is, I strongly believe, that of the people expressed through the ballot box.

The National Assembly may, however, in the circumstances of this case and those of similar nature, consider amending the constitution by providing a similar provision to Section 294(5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, in Section 285 of the said constitution.

In conclusion, I find merit in the appeals and hold that appeal nos. SC/14/2012; SC/14A/2012; SC/14B/2012 be and are hereby allowed for being meritorious, while appeal no. SC/14C/2012 arising from the decision on the cross appeal is struck out, as the judgment on which it is based has been struck out. The judgment of the Court of Appeal in appeals no. CA/EPT/GOV/31/2011 delivered on 29th December, 2011 and 23rd January, 2012 is hereby set aside and in its place the judgment of the Kebbi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in petition no. EPT/KB/GOV/1/2011 delivered on the 13th day of November, 2011 is hereby restored and affirmed, subject to the variation that the ninety (90) days within which INEC is to conduct a fresh election to the office of Governor of Kebbi State shall commence to run from today, being the date of this judgment.

It is further ordered that parties bear their costs of the appeals.

Appeals allowed, as stated supra.


SC.14/2012 (CON)

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