Lawyers expressed shock at the Thursday ruling of the Federal High Court, Kano which voided the votes cast for Labour Party (LP) candidates in the last general elections.
The lawyers are unanimous in their view that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the suit or make that order because, among others, the subject matter of the suit was “indisputably” statute-barred.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Louis Alozie, Festus Ogun, and Ehidiamen Destiny said the suit was a pre-election matter with only brief window – which had long expired – within which an aggrieved party could seek redress in court.
Although Justice Muhammad Nasir-Yunusa, who gave the judgment, declared the votes polled by LP candidates as wasted, he declined to nullify the certificate of return issued to the party’s candidates on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction.
Justice Yunusa cited the LP’s failure to submit its membership registers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) preparatory to the party’s primary election as the basis for his verdict.
Alozie branded the decision an act of judicial rascality.
“The issue of validity of party primaries that took place in Abia State cannot be adjudicated in Kano State,” he said.
“That court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the matter. It’s tantamount to forum shopping. A judge was dismissed in 2008 for hearing an election related case in Katsina concerning membership of the Imo State House of Assembly.
“Secondly, primaries were conducted in May, 2022. The constitution allows only 21 days for a dissatisfied person to challenge it in court. As of the date the suit was filed early this month or so, it had become statute-barred, thus robbing the court of jurisdiction.”
The SAN added that the judgment could not affect Otti because he was not a party to the suit.
“Our law is settled that no court can make an order against a person who is not a party before it. Governor-elect Oti was not a party to the suit. He obviously was not served with the processes, neither was he heard from.”
“Those whose interests are adversely affected were not joined as party to the suit.
“Who is Ibrahim Haruna Ibrahim? Under the Electoral Act, 2022, only an aspirant who actually participated in the primaries can challenge the candidate of any party.
“The issue of party membership is an internal affair of political party which the court cannot entertain.
“The suit is academic and the judgment cannot serve any purpose since the election had already been conducted.
“The suit is an abuse of court process. The judgement CANNOT survive appellate scrutiny. It will be quashed on appeal.”
Ehidiamen’s views were similar on the matter of the court’s jurisdiction. But he insisted that all LP candidates had been disqualified by the decision and must quickly obtain an injunction staying the judgment.
He argued that a judgment, whether wrong or not, must first be obeyed unless and until it is set aside.
The lawyer, in a statement, said: “I vehemently disagree with the time frame the judgment was delivered. The judgment was made outside the jurisdiction of the Court at this moment
“The Constitutional time frame for initiating and delivering judgment on matters which are pre-election matters in nature had already constitutionally elapsed (Section 285 of the Constitution) and ANPP V GONI.
“The time frame is like the rock of Gibraltar that cannot be extended even by a day for so ever reasoning. Without any iota of doubt any court (whether Supreme Court)) lacks jurisdiction to pronounce on any pre-election matter at this stage.”
In his view, the proper venue to challenge the nomination and eligibility of any LP candidate is the Tribunal
He added: “Again the proper parties are not before the court; the court cannot make an order against Alex Otti of Abia State who is not a party to the Suit. It manifestly negates the Principle of fair hearing.”
Ehidiamen also said the judgment “stylishly INVALIDATES PETER OBI’s candidacy as Labour Party presidential candidate.
Explaining why the judgment affects Otti, unless set aside, he said: “In law, no matter how useless and gibberish a court order is, it must first be obeyed. As it stands now, Alex and all L.P. candidates stand disqualified to be sworn in.
They must quickly compile and transmit Record to the Court of Appeal and apply for INJUNCTION PENDING APPEAL, OR quickly Apply to a Federal High Court via ex parte motion for an order allowing the elected candidates of the Labour Party to be sworn in pending the determination of election petition matters in the Tribunal.”
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