The Supreme Court has dismissed two appeals filed by some ad-hoc delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, loyal to the Dan Orbih faction of the party, led by Hon. Monday Iyore Osagie.
In a judgment on Friday, a five-member panel headed by Justice Amina Augie, affirmed the earlier judgment of the court of appeal and held that the subject of the appeals were issues on which the court lacked jurisdiction because they relate to the internal affairs of political party.
The judgment was on the appeal marked: SC/CV/980/2022 between Hon. Monday Iyore Osagie & others v. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and of others, which judgment was to apply to the second appeal marked: SC/CV/979/2022 involving the same parties and arising from the same earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the lead judgment, held that the issue of the choice of candidates is internal to the party and that the subject of the appeals are internal to the PDP in Edo State.
Justice Agim further held that the appellants, who were ad-hoc delegates in the State, lacked the locus standi (the right to approach) the court on the question of what are the party’s actual delegates.
The judge, while relating the history of the case, noted that “the appeal is against the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on the July 25, 2022 in the appeal marked: CA/ABJ/CV/594/2022, setting aside the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on May 26, 2022 in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/518/2022.
Justice Agim further noted that, in the beginning of its judgment, the trial court held that the subject of that suit, concerning the question of which persons were elected ward ad-hoc delegates on 30th April 2022 in 193 wards of Edo State, and which of the two ward congresses held in the same wards on that day is the authentic and valid one, is an internal dispute concerning the party’s domestic affairs, which the trial court should not to have entertained as it has no jurisdiction to do so.
He added that, after holding that it lacked jurisdiction, “the trial court, in this same judgment, found that the ward congress conducted by the first respondent’s Edo State Working Committee that elected the appellants therein, is the valid and authentic ward congresses and not the ward congresses conducted by the first respondent’s National Working Committee (NWC) constituted Ward Congress Electoral Committee, which elected the fifth respondent and others as ah-hoc delegates,” and proceeded to grant the relief sought by Osagie and others.
Justice Agim noted that, on appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the subject of the suit was an internal party matter that was not within the jurisdiction of the trial court.
He then proceeded to hold that: “In the light of the foregoing, I hold that the Court of Appeal correctly held that the subject matter of the suit leading to this appeal is an internal affair of the first respondent (the PDP), and to be resolved by its internal mechanism.
“It (the subject matter) is not justiciable and therefore, not within the jurisdiction of the trial court (the Federal High Court).
“The trial court wrongly assumed jurisdiction to entertain and determined the issues involved. The Court of Appeal rightly set aside the trial court’s decision.
“Having determined that the Court of Appeal rightly held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to have entertained and determined this matte, no useful purpose would be served by considering and determining other issues in this appeal.
“On the whole, this appeal fails as it lacks merit, and it is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Agim held.
In her contribution to the lead judgment, Justice Augie held that the appellants lacked the legal right to have filed the suit at the Federal High Court, not being aspirants in the primary election of the PDP.
She said: “In this case, the appellants were elected as ad-hoc delegates of the PDP (the first respondent) for the 192 wards of Edo State on the 30th of April 2022 in the ward congresses held in each of the 192 wards in Edo State.
‘And, the issue in this appeal is whether the appellants, who filed their suit before the May 2022 primary election of the first respondents for the election of candidates for the 2023 general elections, have the right to air their grievances in any court of law, not being aspirants.
“Under Section 84(14) of the Electoral Act, an aspirant may complain that his/her political party did not comply with its guidelines or Electoral Act in selecting or nominating a candidate,” she held.
Justice Augie added that in any case, it is only an aspirant that has the legal standing to challenge the result of a primary election believed to be invalid.
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