Peoples Democratic Party V. Hon. (Dr) Harry N. Oranezi & Ors (2017) LLJR-SC
LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report
MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD, J.S.C.
On the 12th day of July, 2017, this very Court did determine Appeal No. SC. 279/2016 brought by the 5th respondent herein, Hon. Julius Offormah, against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, hereinafter referred to as the lower Court, in appeal No. CA/E/207/2015. The issue raised and the facts on which the issue rested in the earlier appeal are on all fours as in the instant appeal. I shall briefly elaborate the facts that brought about the two appeals.
The 1st respondent in both appeals, Hon. Dr. Harry Oranezi, as plaintiff at the Federal High Court sitting at Awka, hereinafter referred to as the trial Court, initiated suit No. FHC/AWK/CS/24/2015 against the appellant herein and the appellant in appeal No. SC. 279/2016, now the 4th respondent and the remaining respondent. He contends by his writ that having scored the highest votes in appellant’s primary election of 7th December, 2014 for the party’s candidate in the 14th February, 2015 general election in respect of the Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigu Federal House of Representatives Constituency, it is unlawful
for the party to substitute him with and submit the 4th respondent’s name as that of its candidate in the general election. The Substitution being in breach of the Constitution and the Electoral Guidelines of the Appellant, the plaintiff pursuant to Section 87(a) (c) and (9) of the Electoral Act (as amended) sought that much declaratory and injunctive reliefs from the trial Court to restore him to being the appellant’s rightful candidate in the 14th February, 2015 general election for the Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency.
The defendants to the action challenged the competence of 1st respondent’s suit and urged the trial Court to dismiss it in limine. In its ruling of 19th March, 2015, the Court sustained the objection of the defendants, declined jurisdiction and struck out 1st respondent’s suit.
Dissatisfied, the 1st respondent appealed to the lower Court which, in upholding the appeal and setting aside the trial Courts ruling, remitted the suit to the trial Court for same to be heard and determined by a judge other than M.L. Abubakar J.
Similarly aggrieved, the appellant herein’ like Hon. Julius Offirmah in the earlier
appeal, has appealed to this Court. The notice of appeal filed on 3rd May, 2016 contains two grounds of appeal.
In its brief which the appellant exchanged with the respondents and at the hearing of the appeal, adopted and relied upon as its argument for the appeal, a lone issue has been distilled as arising for the determination of the appeal.
The issue, see paragraph 4 at pages 3 and 4 of the brief reads:
“Having regard to the following facts:
(i) The 1st Respondent claims there were three Primaries in his Statement of Claim.
(ii) He won the Primary conducted by Ken Emeakayi.
(iii) The trial Court’s un-appealed decision to the effect that the Ken – Emeakayi led Executive had ceased to exist by the 7th day of December, 2014 (the date of the Primary election).
Whether the lower Court was not wrong in allowing the appeal and granting consequential orders (Ground 1 and 2).” (Underlining mine for emphasis).
The respondents who also adopted and relied on their respective briefs have formulated similar issues therein for the determination of the appeal. The 1st respondent’s issue reads:
“Whether the Court below was right in allowing the appeal.”
It is significant to observe that whereas the 2nd and 3rd respondents are
executive officers of the appellant, the 4th and 5th respondents are persons whose names, the 1st respondent in his suit at the trial Court asserts variously unlawfully substituted his. Both had polled less votes in the appellants primary election than his. The 6th respondent, INEC, had witnessed the appellant’s primary election the outcome of which is what is in contention in the instant suit. Not surprisingly only the 1st respondent, the plaintiff at the trial Court, and INEC, the 6th respondent, in keeping with its neutral role, maintain their traditional roles as respondents in the appeal, by their support and defence of the judgment being appealed against.
The 2nd to 5th respondents’ brief which seek that the appeal be allowed must be discountenanced. This Court remains emphatic that the role of the respondent in an appeal is to defend the judgment appealed against. In the instant appeal where these particular briefs are not filed in support of any cross appeal, the procedure does not allow them to do what they set out to. See Cameroon Airline v. Otutuizu (2011) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1233) 512 and F. Organ and Ors V Nigeria 4
Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd & Anor (2013) LPELR – 20942 (SC).
6th respondent’s better framed issue that subsumes the appellant’s and 1st respondent’s issues and on the basis of which this appeal shall be determined reads:
“Whether the Court of Appeal was right to have held that the Federal High Court was seized jurisdiction to entertain the suit filed by the 1st respondent as plaintiff’.
On the lone issue, learned appellant counsel refers to paragraph 31 of the statement of claim and submits that Section 87(4) and (9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) does not confer the platform to sue on the 1st respondent whose emergence as a successful candidate for the party is in relation to a state conducted primary election. The primary election he bases his claim on, not having been conducted by the National Organs of the appellant as pleaded in paragraphs 26-33 of the statement of claim, on the authority of Yaradua V. Yandoma (2015) 4 NWLR (Pt 1448) 123 at 198 and Lado & Ors. V. C.P.C. & Ors. (2012) ALL FWLR (Pt 607) 623, it is submitted, renders 1st respondent’s suit incompetent. The lower Court’s decision that the suit is justiceable notwithstanding the
parallel primaries to which the suit relates, it is further argued, is perverse. The decision of the Supreme Court in C.P.C & 1 Or V. Hon. Emmanuel David Ombugadu & 1 Or (2013) 18 NWLR (Pt 1385) 145 it is submitted, does not justify the lower Court’s wrong decision. The Ken Emeakayi – led State Executive of the appellant the 1st respondent claims conducted the primary election of the former, it is submitted, has been held by the trial Court to be illegal. The trial Court’s finding that has not been appealed against by the 1st respondent, it is further argued, persists. Relying on Alhaji Musa Sani V. State (2015) 15 NWLR (Pt 483) and Odedo V. INEC & 3 Ors (2008) 17 NWLR (Pt 1117) 554, to support this contention, learned appellant’s counsel insists that the lower Court is wrong in its conclusion that 1st respondent’s suit is founded on a primary election that serves as the platform for the enforcement of his claims. The appellant urges that the appeal be allowed and the lower Court’s wrong decision set-aside.
On the lone issue, learned 1st respondent’s counsel submits that it is necessary to recall that the trial Court had declined
jurisdiction over plaintiff’s action because same was founded on the appellant’s multiple primary elections and all the more so because the one the 1st respondent claimed to have emerged from was conducted by the State organs of the party. These findings of the trial Court, submits learned counsel, are to be found at pages 109 – 111 of the record of appeal. The lower Court’s contrary findings on the very issue, submits learned counsel, are at pages 295,297 – 299 and 300 – 301 of the record of appeal.
1st respondent’s case instead of paragraph 31 of the statement of claim the appellant asserts is based upon, it is argued, draws particularly from paragraph 25 of the pleading. Paragraph 31 of the statement of claim, it is contended, not being ambiguous, means exactly what it states as properly understood by the lower Court. The paragraph deals with the drama caused by the submissions and publication of list of candidates rather than the drama on the conduct of the primary election.
It remains 1st respondent’s case, further argues learned counsel, that the primary election he contested was the one conducted by the National Executive Committee of the
appellant. Having polled the highest votes in the particular primary, it is further argued, his case comes clearly within the purview of Section 87(4) and (9) of the Electoral Act as amended and the numerous decisions of the Supreme Court on who is entitled to be the appellant’s candidate at the general election. On the whole, it is submitted, the appellant has misconceived the lower Court’s judgment when it attributes to it what it does not decide. It is for that reason, learned counsel submits that the appeal should fail.
In the 6th respondent’s brief settled by Lotanna Chuka Okoli Esq., it is similarly argued that the appeal be dismissed. Relying onGarba V. Mohammed (2016) 16 NWLR (Pt 1537) 114 and Lokpobiri V. Ogola (supra), learned counsel submits that by virtue of Section 31(5) and 87(9) of the Electoral Act 2010 ( as amended), 1st respondent is clearly entitled to the reliefs thereunder which reliefs the trial Court though empowered to grant declined. 1st respondent’s has the locus under the law to question the intra party election of the appellant. The lower Court’s decision that so holds, it is submitted, should be upheld.
My lords, in
resolving the lone issue, the appeal raises and determining whether or not the lower Court’s judgment being appealed against should persist, there is the need for the Court to be guided by an overriding and trite principle. In this regard, the fact that we have not been urged by any of the parties in the appeal to depart from our decision in appeal No. SC. 279/2016 is significant. Abiding by the precedent, this Court outlined in its decision in the earlier appeal in this subsequent matter that dwells on the same facts and seeks the application of the same law to the facts becomes an imperative. In the same vein, the lower Court’s decision herein, the very decision considered by this Court in the determination of the earlier appeal abides if, like in the earlier appeal, is that Court’s application of the doctrine of stare – decisis or precedent.
In NEPA V. Onah (1997) LPELR-1959 (SC) this Court has stated as follows:
“It is a cardinal principle of law under the doctrine of stare decisis that an inferior Court is bound by a decision of a superior Court, however sure it may be that it has been wrongly decided.”
See also Usman V. Umaru (1992) 7 SCNJ
388, Ngwo & Ors V. Monye & Ors (1970) LPELR-1991 (SC) and CBN & Ors V. Okojie (2015) LPELR-24740 (SC).
The lower Court’s decision, which effects and essence the appellant begrudges, see page 300 of the record of appeal, reads:
“Since the appellant herein averred that he participated in the primary conducted by the 1st 3rd respondents and the Ken Emeakayi – led State Executive Committee, he has a right to approach the Court to seek redress for his complaints of manipulation of the result of the primary and the Court has the jurisdiction to entertain same. The Court also has the jurisdiction and the duty to decide which of the primaries is the valid and authentic one and who actually won the primary. See C.P.C. VS. OMBUGADU (SUPRA), UGWU VS. P.D.P. (SUPRA). The case of LADO VS C. P. C. (SUPRA) where the Supreme Court held that once there arises a dispute as to which of the two primaries conferred a right of candidature on the parties to represent a political party in an election, the matter is taken outside the preview of Section 87 (4) (b (ii). (c) (ii) and (9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) is no longer the law.”
(Underlining mine for emphasis).
In rightly succumbing to the earlier decisions of this Court on the same facts and law the lower Court in the foregoing, admirably, complies with the age-long principle of precedent or stare decisis. The curious might ask: how
The trial Court in sustaining the appellant’s challenge to the competence of the 1st respondent’s action had declined jurisdiction thereon. The lower Court imbibed the decisions of this Court and ruled differently.
The appellant herein, as in appeal No. SC. 279/2015 determined earlier by this Court, disputes the correctness of the lower Court’s decision. It is trite principle of law that the plaintiff’s claim alone provides the basis of determining whether a Court has jurisdiction to proceed where, as in the instant case, the competence of the claim is challenged. The facts on the basis of which the suit is filed and the reliefs sought of the Court as pleaded are scrutinized against the background of the statute that confers on the Court the jurisdiction it is approached to exercise. See Dr. Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju & Ors V. Prof. P.A. Dopamu & Ors (2008) NWLR (Pt 1085) 1 at 22-23, and
P.D.P V. Timpre Sylva & Ors (2012) 12 NWLR (part 1316) 85.
In suit No. FHC/AWK/CS/24/2015 that brought about the instant appeal, the plaintiff, the 1st respondent herein, Hon. (Dr) Harry Oranezi, had sought the following reliefs:
- DECLARATION that the Plaintiff having polled the majority of votes at the 1st defendant’s primary election conducted on 7th December, 2014, for emergence of its candidate for Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal House of Representatives Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives election scheduled for 14th February, 2015 is the candidate of 1st Defendant at the February, 2015 general elections.
- DECLARATION that Plaintiff having polled majority of votes at the said 1st Defendant’s primary election was entitled to have his names as 1st Defendant’s candidate for Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal House of Representatives Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives election, 2015 submitted by 2nd & 3rd Defendants to the 8th Defendant.
- DECLARATION that Plaintiff having been declared the winner of the said primary election under Section 87 (4) (c) of Electoral Act, 2010 (as
amended), he cannot be substituted with the 4th Defendant albeit 5th Defendant, both of who lost the primary election under the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2014 of Peoples Democratic Party and Electoral Act (supra).
- PERPETUAL MANDATORY INJUNCTION compelling the 1st 3rd & 6th Defendants to recognize the Plaintiff as the Candidate of the 1st Defendant, and in that behalf accord him all perquisites as the 1st Defendant’s Candidate for the Federal House of Representatives election, 2015 in respect of Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal House of Representatives Constituency.”
Paragraph 26 of the plaintiff/1st respondent’s statement of claim which his counsel submits subsumes and explains the other facts upon which the reliefs the claimant seeks reads:
“On 7/2/2014, 1st Defendant acting through the National Assembly Electoral Committee, did conduct the primary election for Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal House of Representatives Constituency wherein Plaintiff, along with 4th & 5th Defendants stood for the primary election. At the end of polls, Plaintiff emerged victorious and was declared the winner by the
returning officer having polled 93 votes out of 123 accredited delegates as against 4th Defendant’s 1 votes and 5th Defendant’s 9 votes. The result of the said primary election shall be found upon at the trial.”
Paragraph 31 which learned appellant’s counsel vehemently submits contains the overriding facts within which 1st respondent’s claim is located reads:
“The drama playing out in the submission and publication of 1st of candidates has thrown up three characterizations of aspirants seeking to fly the 1st Defendant’s flag at the February, 2015 polls:
(a) The first group, where the Plaintiff belongs, were those who contested and won primary election conducted by 1st 3rd Defendants in tandem with Ken Emeakayi – led State Executive Committee.
(b) The second group, where the 4th Defendant belongs, were those who emerged from a supposed Primary conducted by 1st 3rd Defendants in tandem with Rtd General Aliyu Kama – led care-taker or South-East Zonal Committee Care-Taker.
(c) The third group, where the 6th Defendant belongs, were those who emerged from a supposed primary conducted by a group known as Oguebego – led State
Executive Committee in exclusion of 1st 3rd Defendants.”
Now, a cardinal principle of interpretation we must not forget, which learned appellant’s counsel however seems to ignore, is that provisions of a statute, an instrument or indeed pleadings should not be read in isolation of the other parts of the statute, instrument or pleadings. In order to determine the intendment of the makers of the statute, instrument or pleadings, same should be read as a whole. Thus a clause in any of these must be construed together and with reference to the con and other clauses in the statue, instrument or pleadings in ensuring the discovery of a consistent meaning of the whole, here, the pleading being considered. See Oyeyemi V. Commissioner for Local Government (Kwara State) (1992) 2 SCNJ 266 at 280 and Artra Industry Limited V. NBCI (1998) 3 SCNJ 97 at 115.
In applying the foregoing principle by reading the entirety of the plaintiff/1st respondent’s statement of claim, inclusive of the reliefs he seeks, the inescapable conclusion one draws, learned 1st respondent’s counsel is right, is that the appellant has grossly misconceived the facts on the basis
of which it was sued at the trial Court.
It cannot be taken away from the 1st respondent, a fact which the lower Court rightly conceded to him, that paragraph 31 read along with the entire statement of claim deals with the publication and submission of the many lists containing various names of the candidates of and by the appellant to INEC purportedly consequent upon appellant’s primary election. I agree that the paragraph does not dwell on “multiple primaries” of the appellant but the various lists of who is to be the appellant’s candidate in the general election each of which names purport to have emerged from the same party’s valid and relevant primary election. As a whole, and this is the finding of the lower Court, 1st respondent’s case is that having participated in the appellant’s primary election conducted by the National Executive Committee of the appellant, the submission of various names other than his to the 6th respondent, INEC, as the appellant’s candidate in the 2015 general election stands in breach of Section 87 (4) (c) and (9) of the Electoral Act (2010) as amended. And the breach, this Court has held in so many of its decisions, which
decisions the lower Court applied to arrive at its decision being challenged in this appeal, entitles the 1st respondent to the reliefs the trial Court declined jurisdiction to enquire into let alone grant. See Akpamgbo-Okadigbo Vs. Chidi (No. 1) (2015) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1456) Page 171, Ugwu Vs. P.D.P (2015) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1459) Pate 478, Jev Vs. lyortyom (2014) 14 NWLR (Pt. 1428) Page 575, Ukachukwu Vs. P.D.P. (2014) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1435) Page 134 and C.P.C. Vs. Ombugadu (2013) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1385) Page 66.
The lower Court’s decision founded on the foregoing decisions of this Court cannot certainly be wrong. This Court has held that much in the earlier appeal No. SC. 279/2010 as well. It cannot deviate from the decision in the earlier appeal now given the same facts and the issue the instant appeal raises. It is for this reason that l find no merit in the appeal and dismiss same. The lower Court’s judgment is hereby affirmed in its entirety.
Parties should bear their respective costs.