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P.D.P. v. Okorocha

PEOPLES’ DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP)

V

CHIEF ANAYO ROCHAS OKOROCHA

ALL PROGRESSIVE GRAND ALLIANCE

( APGA )

INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC)

RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER, IMO STATE

STATE RETURNING OFFICER, IMO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION

ELECTORAL OFFICER, OWERRI WEST LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA

ELECTORAL OFFICER, NGOR OKPALA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA

ELECTORAL OFFICER, OHAJI/EGBEMA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA

ELECTORAL OFFICER, ORU-EAST LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA

ELECTORAL OFFICER, OGUTA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA

ELECTORAL OFFICER, MBAITOLI LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN JSC ( Presided )

IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD JSC

OLUFUNLOLA OYELOLA ADEKEYE JSC

NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

MARY UKAEGO PETER-ODILI JSC

SC.17/2012

FRIDAY, 2 MARCH 2012

APPEAL - Grounds of appeal and arguments of counsel - Appellate court - Judgment of - Mandatoriness of confining to

APPEAL - Presidential and governorship election - Election petition on - Final appeal court on - Judgment of - Reasons for - Power of to give at later date - Statutorily prescribed time within which must give - Whether applicable to Court of Appeal as an intermediate court therein - Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 285(6),(7) and (8) considered

COURT - Competence of to adjudicate on a matter - Duty on to ensure -  Conditions precedent to - Existence of jurisdiction and competence of the matter as

COURT - Constitutional provisions - Compliance with - Court - Duty on to ensure

COURT - Judicial process - Ridicule of - Court  - Propriety of to prevent -  Process before it - Power of to rely on therefor

COURT - Relief  - Law applicable to - Compliance with - Court - Duty on to ensure - Power of to raise suo motu - Mandatoriness of affording parties a hearing on

ELECTION PETITION - Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 , section 294(5) - Inapplicability of thereto

ELECTION PETITION - Election tribunals - Creation of - Issue of Question relating to interpretation of the Constitution on - Nature of - Jurisdiction of - Basis of

ELECTION PETITION - Presidential and governorship election Election petition on - Final appeal court on - Judgment of Reasons for - Power of to give at later date - Statutorily prescribed time within which must give - Whether applicable to Court of Appeal as an intermediate court therein - Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 285(6),(7) and (8) considered

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Constitution - Words of - Where clear and unambiguous - Court - Proper approach thereto

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Valid judgment - Constituents of - Jurisdiction - Lack of - Effect of on

JURISDICTION - Issue of - Fundamental nature of - Lack of - Effect of on proceedings - When may be raised - Who may raise - How may be raised - Court - Where raises suo motu - Duty on Limitation of by creating statute

JURISDICTION - Nature of - Where non-existent - Litigant Impossibility of conferring on court or assumption of by court

LIMITATION OF ACTION - Right to commence action or right of appeal  Statutory limitation of - Statutorily prescribed time for - Noncompliance with - Legal consequences of - Extension of by court -  Impossibility of

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Judicial process - Ridicule of - Court -  Propriety of to prevent - Process before it - Power of to rely on therefor

STATUTE - Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 285(6),(7) and (8) - Presidential and governorship election - Election petition on - Final appeal court on - Judgment of - Reasons for - Power of to give at later date - Statutorily prescribed time within which must give - Whether applicable to Court of Appeal as an intermediate court therein

STATUTE - Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 294(5) - Inapplicability of to election petition WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Disposed of’ - Meaning of

Issue:

Whether the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which reasons for were given outside the statutory prescribed time therefor was valid.

Facts:

The gubernatorial election for Imo State was contested by the 1st respondent under the platform of APGA while the petitioner also fielded a candidate among other candidates. The petitioner alleged that its candidate won the election which was conducted in all Local Government Areas except for one Local Government Area and some wards in three other Local Government Areas. It further claimed that the 3rd respondent failed to declare its candidate as the winner, rather it cancelled the election and conducted a supplementary election in four Local Government Areas which the petitioner failed to participate in. The 1st respondent was thereafter declared the winner of the election and aggrieved, the petitioner filed a petition at the Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Tribunal, sitting in Imo State, challenging the return of the 1st respondent on grounds that the election of 26 April 2011 was conclusive and was won by its candidate, the supplementary election was not necessary and was conducted in breach of section 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The respondents however contended that the widespread thuggery and violence and inability of voters from the four affected Local Government Areas to vote necessitated the supplementary election. The tribunal dismissed the petition. Aggrieved, the petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeal, where the appeal was also dismissed. Yet aggrieved, the petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court. At the conference for the determination of the appeal, the learned justices of the Supreme Court discovered that the lower court gave reasons for its reserved judgment some 73 days after the tribunal delivered its judgment. In view of the provisions of section 285(7) and (8) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, counsel for parties were called upon to address the court on the validity of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

In determination of the appeal, the Supreme Court considered the following statutes:

1999  Constitution (as amended), section 285(7) and  (8):

285(7):   An appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or Court of Appeal in an election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 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.

1999  Constitution (as amended), section 246(1)(b)(c ):

246(1)  An appeal to the Court of Appeal shall lie as of right from :

  1. decisions of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunals; and
  2. decisions of the Governorship Election Tribunals, on any question as to whether:
    1. any person has been validly elected as a member of the National Assembly or of a House of Assembly of a state under this Constitution,
  3. any person has been validly elected to the Office of a Governor or Deputy Governor. 1999  Constitution (as amended), section  233(1):

The Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction, to the exclusion of any other court of law in Nigeria, to hear and determine appeals from the Court of Appeal.