• Supreme Court Rules On Intra-Party Affairs
  •       LAWRENCE v. PDP & ORS (2017) LPELR-42610(SC) PRACTICE AREA: ELECTION MATTERS INTRODUCTION The courts have held times and again that issues between members of a political party are intra-party issues which are not justiciable and in respect of which the court has no jurisdiction. However, is this always the case? Will the court never- ever interfere or assume jurisdiction in a case between two or more party members? The Supreme Court has, in this instant appeal, made it clear that in certain occasions, a party member may have locus standi to institute a suit against a fellow party member. The Supreme Court, Per AKA’AHS, J.S.C. in the leading judgment said: “I agree with the submission of learned counsel for the appellant that the decision of this Court in Garba v. Muhammed supra answered the question that a member of a party is not barred under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) from bringing an action against another member of his political party for giving false information in his affidavit or document to the electoral body. In his own judgment, ONNOGHEN, J.S.C. said “From the provisions of Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended supra, it is not in doubt that it confers locus standi on “any person” whether a member of a political party or not to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court in accordance with the said provisions and the Court has the requisite vires to hear and determine his case” While delivering her own judgment, KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C said in concurrence with the leading judgment that “Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, empowers any person with reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate is false to institute an action before any of the High Courts to seek a declaration that such information is false. I therefore agree with my learned brother, KUMAI BAYANG AKA’AHS, JSC, that in the circumstances of this case, the appellant had the requisite locus standi to file the suit before the trial Court, notwithstanding the fact that he and the 2nd respondent are from the same party.” FACTS RESULTING IN THIS APPEAL Appellant and 2nd respondents are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who contested the party’s primary election for nomination to contest the 2015 General Election to the Ndokwa East State constituency of Delta State. The appellant as Claimant instituted an action against Hon. Friday Osanebi and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) (now 2nd and 1st respondents respectively) in the Delta State High Court, on the ground that the affidavit and documents submitted INEC by the 1st defendant (now 2nd respondent) in his nomination as the candidate of the 2nd defendant as the candidate of the Ndokwa East Constituency for the election into the 2015 general elections into the Delta State House of Assembly contain several false statements and that the 1st defendant is therefore not qualified to contest the said election, among others. Both 1st and 2nd respondents filed preliminary objections to the claimant’s suit. The trial Court heard the two separate applications and delivered its ruling in respect of the 2nd application on 14/12/2015 and the trial Court believing that the matter falls within the purview of the domestic affairs of the political parties over which the court has no jurisdiction, struck out the suit on the ground that the claimant has no locus standi to institute the suit. The claimant felt aggrieved and appealed against the said ruling while the 1st defendant (now 2nd respondent) filed a notice of cross-appeal. Upon hearing of the appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld the order striking out the suit for lack of jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. This prompted the further appeal to the Supreme Court. ISSUE(S) FOR DETERMINATION The issues for determination as formulated by the appellant and adopted by the Court are: 1. Whether the decision in APGA v. Senator Anyanwu & Ors (2014) 7 NWLR (Pt.1407) 541 was that a member of a political party does not have the locus standi to challenge any false declaration by a candidate of his political party under S. 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) Grounds 1 and 3. 2. Whether the lower Court was not bound by the pleadings of the parties. Ground 2. 3. Whether a member of a political party is excluded or barred under S.31(5)of the Electoral Act (as amended) from bringing a suit against a candidate of his political party upon a reasonable ground that such candidate has given false information in his affidavit or documents to the electoral body. Ground 4. 4. Whether the lower Court was right in holding that the failure of the trial Court to deliver a ruling in respect of the 2nd respondent’s motion challenging the competence of the appellant’s suit did not breach the appellant’s right to fair hearing. Ground 5. HELD The court, in holding that the appellant has locus standi to institute the suit, unanimously held that a challenge of a candidate under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) is not a challenge to a party’s choice of which candidate to sponsor. The case was consequently remitted to the High Court of Delta State, Asaba for trial. No order was made as to costs. RATIO DECIDENDI ·  APPEAL – RIGHT OF APPEAL: Whether a party in whose favour an order of Court was made has a right of appeal against that order “An appellant cannot also cross-appeal. The two terms are incongruous. In any event, the learned Justices of the Court below (Oseji, Adumein and Oniyangi JJ. CA) agreed with the submission that the signature on top of F. A. Onuzurike Esq and K. T. N. Nwanebo Esq who were the plaintiff’s counsel should be appropriated to any of the counsel and so the failure to appropriate the signature to any of them did not vitiate the competence of the statement of claim. Therefore a party in whose favour an order has been made by the Court does not have a right of appeal against that order. See: Ekunola v. CBN (2013) 15 NWLR (Pt.1377) 224. The preliminary objection succeeds and the cross-appeal is struck out.” Per AKA’AHS, J.S.C. ·  ELECTORAL MATTERS – QUALIFICATION/DISQUALIFICATION: Whether a member of a political party has the locus standi to challenge any false declaration by a candidate of his political party under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) “Section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides as follows:- “31(5)Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the Federal High Court, High Court of a State or Federal Capital Territory against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false. (6) If the Court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit of any document submitted by that candidate is false, the Court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election”. It is the contention of learned counsel for the appellant that a challenge of a candidate under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act is not about a challenge to a party’s choice and he placed reliance on Garba v. Mohammed supra. The facts in that case are as follows:- On 8th and 10th December, 2014 the 2nd respondent; the All Progressives Congress (APC) conducted primary elections to select its candidate for the Niger South Senatorial District in the 2015 general elections. The appellant, the 1st respondent and two other candidates contested the said primaries. The 1st respondent was declared the winner while the appellant came second. The 1st respondent’s name was submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the 2nd respondent’s candidate for the Senatorial District election of 2015. The 1st appellant was dissatisfied with the outcome and appealed to the Appeals Committee of the 2nd respondent. His contention was that the 1st respondent was not a member of the party. According to the appellant the National Working Committee of the 2nd respondent (not the Appeals committee) recommended that the 1st respondent be disqualified. The appellant was given Form CF 001 and an INEC nomination form, which he completed and submitted to the Commission (3rd respondent). However the 3rd respondent refused to substitute his name without a Court order compelling it to do so. Consequently, the plaintiff/appellant filed an originating summons at the Federal High Court, Minna seeking various reliefs against the respondents on the ground that the 1st respondent was not a registered member of the 2nd respondent and therefore ought not to have been returned as the winner of the primary election held on 10/12/2014 and his name ought not to have been forwarded to INEC as the party’s candidate for the general election. He subsequently filed an amended originating summons wherein he sought for the determination of certain questions. One of the questions was:- “Whether having regard to the provisions of Section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) the 1st defendant is not disqualified from participating in the Niger South Senatorial Election 2015 having given false information as to his membership of the 2nd defendant in the affidavit, Form CF 007, submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission”. One of the reliefs he sought for was an order of Court disqualifying the 1st defendant for giving false information in his affidavit of personal particulars, Form CF 001 and mandating the 3rd defendant to substitute the name of the 1st defendant with that of the plaintiff as the 2nd defendant’s candidate for Niger South Senatorial District in the March 2015 general elections. Upon being served with the originating summons the 1st respondent filed a counter affidavit and written address in opposition. He also filed preliminary objections challenging the appellant’s suit and the Courts jurisdiction to entertain it. The learned trial Judge entered judgment in favour of the appellant and dismissed the 1st respondent’s preliminary objection. Being dissatisfied with the decision, the 1st respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was allowed and the decision of the trial Court in favour of the plaintiff was set aside for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiff/appellant subsequently appealed against the judgment of the Court of Appeal. This Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and restored the judgment of the Federal High Court, Minna. I agree with the submission of learned counsel for the appellant that the decision of this Court in Garba v. Muhammed supra answered the question that a member of a party is not barred under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) from bringing an action against another member of his political party for giving false information in his affidavit or document to the electoral body. The decision in APGA v. Anyanwu & Ors supra is distinguishable on the facts since no allegation of making a false declaration was made in that case as has been done in this case. The two issues which the appellant formulated for determination in APGA v. Anyanwu were on the membership of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and they are as follows:- 1. Is it correct for the Court below to determine this appeal on merit without setting the challenge of jurisdiction of the Court below to hear and determine the suit itself? 2. Whether the question of membership of a political party is justiciable to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court below to determine same under the procedure enacted by Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, 2010 or at all? Where the words used in a statute are clear and unambiguous, the construction of those words must be based on the ordinary plain meaning of the words. See: African Newspapers of Nigeria Ltd. v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 6) 137; Fred Egbe v. Yusuf (1992) 6 NWLR (Pt.245) 1; Olanrewaju v. Governor of Oyo State (1992) 11 – 12 SCNJ 92; (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt. 255) 335. The use of the phrase “a person” in Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act is clear and unambiguous and does not admit of two meanings. It does not restrict the action to be taken only to members of other Political parties. Furthermore the application to be made to the commission in Section 31(4) of the same Act for the copy of the nomination form, affidavit and any other document submitted by a candidate is opened to everybody. It follows that the decision to go to Court to prove that a candidate who has been nominated to contest in the general election can be undertaken by anybody and not just the members of an opposing political party. And it is only the Court that can issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election. The provision does not derogate or in anyway impinge on the powers of a political party to decide who becomes their member as the membership of the political party is not justiciable. It has been said times without number that Courts have no business dabbling into any political question which remains the exclusive preserve of the political parties; consequently the decisions in cases such as Onuoha v. Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; Lado v. C.P.C. (2011) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1279) 689; P.D.P. v. Sylva (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt.1316); ANPP v. Usman (2008) 12 NWLR (Pt.1100) 1 which deal with the membership of political parties and the power of the political parties to keep their members in check is still extant. This appeal therefore has merit and it is allowed. A challenge of a candidate under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) is not a challenge to a party’s choice of which candidate to sponsor.” Per AKA’AHS, J.S.C. (Pp. 8-14, Paras. A-C) ·  ELECTORAL MATTERS – QUALIFICATION/DISQUALIFICATION: Whether a member of a political party has the locus standi to challenge any false declaration by a candidate of his political party under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). “From the provisions of Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended supra, it is not in doubt that it confers locus standi on “any person” whether a member of a political party or not to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court in accordance with thesaid provisions and the Court has the requisite vires to hear and determine his case: See Garba Vs Mohammed & Ors. (2016) 16 NWLR (Pt.1537) 114.” Per ONNOGHEN, J.S.C. (P. 17, Paras. A-C) ·  ELECTORAL MATTERS – QUALIFICATION/DISQUALIFICATION: Whether a member of a political party has the locus standi to challenge any false declaration by a candidate of his political party under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) “Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, empowers any person with reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate is false to institute an action before any of the High Courts to seek a declaration that such information is false. I therefore agree with my learned brother, KUMAI BAYANG AKA’AHS, JSC, that in the circumstances of this case, the appellant had the requisite locus standi to file the suit before the trial Court, notwithstanding the fact that he and the 2nd respondent are from the same party.” Per KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C. (P. 30, Paras. A-C) ·  INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE – “PERSON”: Meaning of “a person” as used in Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) “The operative words in Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act therefore are, “a person”. The determination is a matter of interpretation. I seek to state that in the interpretation of statutes, the law is trite and well entrenched that where the legislative words are clear and unambiguous, the Count must interpret and apply the words in their plain and ordinary meaning. This Court has held in a long line of cases that, it is not for the Court to re-draft a statute especially where the wordings are devoid of ambiguity or confusion. See Kotoye v. Saraki (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt.357) page 414 where this Court said thus at page 427 of the report:- “It is a settled cardinal principle of statutory interpretation that where in their ordinary meaning the provisions are clear and unambiguous, effect should be given to them without resorting to external aid.” Also in the case of Attorney – General, Abia State v. Attorney-General of the Federation (2005) 12 NWLR, (Pt.940) 452 at 503 and 516 again, this Court had this to say:- “A Court is not entitled to read into a statute words which are excluded expressly or impliedly from it. Thus, where the provisions of a statute are clear and unambiguous, effect must be given to the words without resorting to any extrinsic aid to interpret it. The solemn and sacred duty of the Court is to interpret the words used in the section by the legislation and give them their intended meaning and effect.” See also the cases of Awolowo v. Shagari & Ors. (1979) NSCC 87; Ogun State v. Federal Government (1982) 1-2 SC 13; Attorney-General of Bendel State v. A-General of the Federation and Ors. (1981) 10 SC 1 and Amadi v. N.N.P.C. (2000) LPELR -4451. For all intents and purposes, the use of the words, “a person” presupposes any person. It is also open ended to all and at the same time inclusive of all and without restriction or exclusion. The fact that one is a member of a particular political party or not, is of no relevance but is all embracing.”Per OGUNBIYI, J.S.C. (Pp. 19-20, Paras. C-A) OTHER JUDGMENTS FROM THE COURTS ABOLEJA & ORS v. OILWAYS INVESTMENT LTD & ORS (2017) LPELR-42603(CA) ·  EVIDENCE – BURDEN OF PROOF/ONUS OF PROOF: On whom lies the onus of proof in a claim for family or communal ownership of land “?In dealings with communal property or family property, there is a presumption of communal or family holding. So where the issue is as between the Olunloye family as a whole and individual holding by a branch thereof, the presumption would be in favour of the Olunloye family and it would be for the individual branch to rebut that presumption e.g. by Partition or Sale or Other methods by which joint ownership is broken. See: Eze vs. Igiliegbe (1952) 14 WACA 61 The onus is therefore on the person or branch relying on individual or branch ownership to rebut the presumption in favour of family ownership. In the case above, the West African Court of Appeal held that the trial Court was right to presume as a matter of customary law that land belonged to the community or family as a whole. The onus was on the defendant to establish that his section on branch has title to the land but he failed to rebut the presumption because of this presumption of customary law, the appellants had no onus other than to plead or assert that the land in dispute was family land. It was for the respondents who claim exclusive possession or ownership to prove that Olunloye family ownership has been broken by Partition or Sale. Where they fail, the Presumption will apply to leave family Property intact and unbroken in the Olunloye family.” Per OKORONKWO, J.C.A. (Pp. 18-20, Paras. F-A) ·  JUDGMENT AND ORDER – ORDER OF DISMISSAL: Effect of an order of dismissal “…What is the effect of this dismissal? Anexamination or glimse into the case would show; (1) An Order of dismissal creates a bar to subsequent suits and the judgment operates as estoppel per rem judicatam. The Young Shall Grow Ltd vs. Ambrose O. Okonkwo & Ors (2010) SC 3-5 SC (Pt. III) at 124. (2) An Order of dismissal after fully hearing the parties concludes the matter against the plaintiff forever, subject to appeal. It concludes the right of the parties for all purposes. Obe Okpala & Anor vs. Richard Iheme & 9 Ors, (1989) 3 SC (Pt. 1) at 61. (3) An Order of dismissal operates as estoppel per rem Judicatam and Ipso facto bars the losing party for all times from relitigating the same subject matter. Ejiofor vs. Eze Onyekwe & Ors (1972) 12 SC 124. (4) A Judgment dismissing a plaintiff’s claim for declaration of title is a bar to any future action by the plaintiff or his privy for the same relief to the same land. Okafor & Ors vs. Idigo III & Ors (1984) NSCC 360.”Per OKORONKWO, J.C.A. (Pp. 22-23, Paras. D-C) ·  JUDGMENT AND ORDER – ORDER OF NONSUIT: Circumstance where an order of non-suit would be made “This is an order, the order of non-suit which in the circumstance is the appropriate order to have been made by the trial Court. A Non Suit is a discretionary decision from a state of facts or a state of evidence Presented or Conceded before the Court. See: Onyia Nwagwn Ngwu & 6 Ors vs. Ani Ozougwu (1999) II SCNJ l. A non-suit is not ordered of the instance of the plaintiff but a Court can decide to order a non-suit where, after hearing the parties, the Court is satisfied that none of the parties before it, is on the merit, really entitled to judgment. See: Obe Okpala vs. Richard Iheme & 9 Ors (1989) 3 SC (Pt.1) 61.”Per OKORONKWO, J.C.A. (P. 24, Paras. B-E) ·  LAND LAW – ALLOTMENT AND PARTITION OF FAMILY LAND/PROPERTY: Effect of partitioning of family property “From early times, it is recognized in customary law that Partition is one method of terminating family holding and Partition is normally affected by an agreement of the family members or where there is no agreement by an application to Court, the Court exercising the Jurisdiction customary law imposes on elders. See: Modern Land Law of Nigeria R.W. James University of Ife Press 153.” Per OKORONKWO, J.C.A. (Pp. 20-21, Paras. F-A) ·  LAND LAW – ALLOTMENT AND PARTITION OF FAMILY LAND/PROPERTY: How to establish partition of family land “To effect a valid Partition, the consent of all the Principal members of the family is required. See Balogun vs. Balogun (1943) 9 WACA 78. Dosumu vs. Olorogun Adodo (1961) LLR 149. It has also been suggested that the validity of a Partition would also be dependent on division or share to all members or branches entitled.” Per OKORONKWO, J.C.A. (P. 21, Paras. A-C) AZUBUOGU v. ORANEZI & ORS (2017) LPELR-42669(SC) ·  ACTION – PLEADINGS: How pleadings should be considered “It is settled that in construing pleadings, as it is with statues, the averments should be considered as a whole to gather the collective import of the pleaded facts. The trial Court’s reading of Paragraph 31 of the statement of claim in isolation, without relating the paragraph to the preceding paragraphs, not surprisingly, pushed the Court into an avoidable error. The preceding paragraphs are not only complementary to the paragraph the Court singled out and relied on in determining the objections to its jurisdiction over the suit they also explain the meaning and scope of the subsequent paragraph. See The Minister of Housing and Local Government V. Lawbert (1969) 2 NWLR 447 and Mobil Oil (Nig) Plc v. IAL 36 Inc (2000) 4 SC (Pt 1) 85, Yesuf & Anor v. Ojo & Ors (1958) vol. 7 NSCC 99 and Krans Thompson Org v. NIPSS (2004) 17 NWLR (Pt 901) 44.”Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (Pp. 19-20, Paras. F-D) ·  APPEAL – CROSS-APPEAL: Effect of failure of a respondent to file a cross-appeal “It is further intriguing also to say the least, that the 3rd respondent rather than defend the lower Court’s judgment and urge for the dismissal of the appeal has proffered contrary argument in his brief. Having not cross appealed, such arguments do not avail the 3rd respondent and are accordingly discountenanced. See Peter Obi v. INEC & Ors (2007) 7 SC 268 and Fiicharles Organ & Ors v. NING Ltd & Anor (2013) LPELR-20942 (SC).” Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (P. 9, Paras. A-D) ·  APPEAL – INTERFERENCE WITH FINDING(S) OF FACT(S): Instances when an appellate Court will not interfere with findings of fact of the lower Courts “The foregoing finding of the lower Court is unassailable. Learned appellant’s counsel must be reminded that a Court’s finding on appeal is only set aside where same is found to be perverse. An appellate Court, learned counsel is to further appreciate, adjudges a decision appealed against perverse if it neither draws from the evidence on record nor upon correct application of some principle. See Adimora V. Ajugo (1988) 3 NWLR (Pt 80) 1, Clifford Osuji V. Nkemjika Ekeocha (2009) LPELR-2816 (SC) and Raphael Ude V. State LPELR-40441 (SC). Since the lower Court’s judgment appealed against is devoid of these defects and is not further shown to have either taken into account matters it ought not to have taken or shut out obvious facts, I agree with learned counsel to the 1st, 5th and 6th respondents that the judgment should persist.” Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (Pp. 12-13, Paras. D-A) ·  CASE LAW – JUDICIAL PRECEDENT/STARE DECISIS: How the principle of precedent or stare decisis is applied or operates “Thirdly, Courts are bound by the earlier authoritative pronouncements of superior Courts on same or similar issues they are subsequently asked to determine. See Olu of Warri v. Kparegbayi (1994) 4 NWLR (Pt 339) 414, Osagie II v. Offor (1998) 3 NWLR (Pt 541) 205 and Dalhatu v. Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt 843) 310 at 350.”Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (Pp. 13-14, Paras. F-A ·  COURT – JURISDICTION: What confers jurisdiction on a Court “Firstly, jurisdiction of a Court is generally provided by a statute and or the Constitution. Any challenge to a Court’s jurisdiction, therefore, is resolved within the purview of the legislation that donates the jurisdiction to the Court. See Okocha Samuel Osi v. Accord Party & ors (2016) LPELR-41388 (SC) and Galadima v. Tambai (2000) 6 SC (Pt 1) 196.”Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (P. 13, Paras. BD) ·  ELECTORAL MATTERS – POLITICAL PARTY PRIMARY: Whether a dispute as to which of two primaries of a political party produced a nominated candidate is justiceable “Granting without conceding that paragraph 31 of the statement of claim is an actual reference to three primaries, one must agree with learned 1st respondent’s counsel that, unlike the trial Court, the lower Court in the discharge of its responsibility rightly insists that 1st respondent action is still justiciable. In Ugwu v. P.D.P. (supra) this Court per Aka’ahs JSC at page 478 of the law report has enthused as follows:- “I am of the considered view that the trial Court will be abdicating its responsibility if it declares that the suit is not justiciable. It has a duty to say which of the two primaries is the authentic one. This is the reason why Section 87(4) (i), 4(c), (i), (ii) and (9) has been put in place and to avoid arbitrariness by some officials of the political party who may want to impose their preferred candidates who probably did not take part in primaries because of the conflicting claims by the parties. It is only the Court that could resolve the issue. This is the dimension which the decision in C. C Vs. Ombugadu supra introduced.”Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (Pp. 21-22, Paras. C-B) ·  ELECTORAL MATTERS – POLITICAL PARTY PRIMARY: Who can institute an action in court tocomplain about the conduct of a party’s primaries “The 1st respondent having participated in the 2nd respondent’s primary election is the aspirant the Electoral Act in Section 87(4) (b) and (9) provides a platform for to seek the reliefs he circumscribes in his claim. The section has already been interpreted and applied by this Court in a seemingly endless number of its decisions a great deal of which have been cited by both sides to the appeal. In Garba v. Mohammed (2016) 16 NWLR (Pt 1537) 114 this Court per Mohammed CJN (as he then was) at pages 164 – 165 Paragraphs H – C of the law report held as follows:- “As for the additional jurisdiction conferred on the Federal High Court under Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as (as amended) quoted above, it gives any aspirant member of a registered political party who participated in a primary election conducted by a political party to choose a candidate to contest an election under its platform, who is not satisfied with the outcome of the primary election contested with other members of the same political party, to approach the Federal High Court or High Court of a State or FCT High Court for redress….. In other words, any dispute arising from the conduct of primary elections by political parties to nominate candidates to contest elections, may be bought to the Federal High Court under Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended) by an aggrieved aspirant of any political party who participated in the primary election conducted by a political party for resolution by that court.” (Underlining supplied for emphasis). See also Lokpobiri v. Ogola (2016) 3 NWLR (Pt 1499) 328.” Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (Pp. 22-23, Paras. D-F) INEC & ANOR v. OGUEBEGO & ORS (2017) LPELR-42609(SC) ·  COURT – CONTEMPT OF COURT: At what instance will words or actions used in the face of the Court or in the course of proceedings be deemed contempt; how a superior Court of record should punish contempt in the face of the Court “For words or actions used in the face of the Court, or in the course of proceedings, to be contempt, they must be such as would interfere with the course of justice. A superior Court of record has the inherent jurisdiction to deal with contempt in facie curiae and punish for the offence summarily. It must once again be emphasised that the summary power of punishing for contempt should however, be used sparingly and only in serious cases, Parashuram Detaram Shamdasani v. King-Emperor (1945) AC 264, 270; Araka v. Attorney-General (1982) 1 SC 153; Oku v. State [1970] 1 NLR 60. This must be for it is a power which a Court, must of necessity, possess. Its usefulness, surely depends on the wisdom and restraint with which it is exercised. In cases of contempt ex facie curiae, there may be cases where the offence should be dealt with summarily, but such hearing must be conducted in accordance with cardinal principles of fair process. Above all, the case must be one the facts surrounding the alleged contempt are so notorious as to be virtually incontestable, where the Judge would have to rely on evidence or testimony of witnesses to events occurring outside his view and outside of his presence in Court, he should not try the case himself. The matter must be placed before another judge where the usual procedure for the arrest, charge and prosecution of the offender must be followed, Oku v. The State (supra) 68. In other words, in the trial of criminal contempt ex facie curiae, an offender is entitled to the benefit of a full process of a criminal trial. The reason for this is obvious. Firstly, this is to ensure that the accused person receives a fair hearing of the case against him. In the second place, the Judge no doubt would have to rely on evidence or testimony of witnesses to events which did not occur in his presence, Boyo v. Attorney-General of Mid- West (1971) 1 All NLR 353.” Per NWEZE, J.S.C. (Pp. 10-12, Paras. F-D) ·  COURT – CONTEMPT OF COURT: General rule precluding a person in contempt from being heard and exceptions thereto “Now, the general common law rule is that a person in contempt cannot be heard in the cause unless he purges himself of the contempt, Group Danone and Anor v. Voltic (Nig) Ltd (2008) LPELR 1341 (SC) 21; B-D; [2008] 7 NWLR (pt. 1087) 637; (2008) 34 NSCQR (pt. 1) 40. However, that ancient prescription is now subject to certain exceptions. Thus, it is now tolerably settled that where a defendant, in a cause, challenges the validity of an order directed against him, either by way of an appeal or other application, he cannot be proceeded against for contempt of that order unless and until the issue of its regality is settled one way or the other, Onwochei Odogwu v. Olemeoku Odogwu (1992) 2 NWLR (pt 225) 539, 554. Gordon v. Gordon (1904) All ER 163. This re-statement has even become necessary now having regard to the distinctive attribute of contempt as sui
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