More controversy trails court’s voiding of Abia, Kano Labour party candidates’ nomination
More condemnations poured in yesterday after Justice Muhammad Nasir-Yunusa of the Kano State High Court overturned the votes cast for all Labour Party candidates in the February 25 and March 18 elections.
The court’s decision was based on the assumption that the Labour Party did not submit its members’ register 30 days before holding its primary election, which produced candidates for the general election, as required by Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act of 2022.
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Though Justice Nasir-Yunusa declared the votes cast by LP candidates to be invalid, he declined to nullify the certificate of return issued to the party’s candidates due to a lack of jurisdiction.
Wahab Shittu (SAN) and Dr. Monday Ubani, Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), both agreed that the court lacked jurisdiction and that the case was already statute barred.
Shittu contended that because the cause of action arose after the Labour Party’s primaries in June 2022, “one could conclude that the matter is already status barred as the action was commenced only on May 11th, 2023.”
“Another thing that bothers me is how the case was instituted on May 11 and the judgement was delivered on May 18, both within a seven-day period.”
“It’s also unclear whether Alex Oti of LP is a party to the suit and whether the judgement applies to him,” he explained.
The learned silk elaborated on the relevant legal provisions pertaining to this issue.
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“The decision was made pursuant to section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, which states that “each political party shall make such register available to the commission not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congress, or convention,” he explained.
“The question then becomes, what are the ramifications of failing to make such a register available within the specified time frame?”
“This decision has already answered the question by stating that the candidates of that political party will be disqualified.” This appears to be the natural result of failing to comply with Section 77 of the Electoral Act.
“The other issue in this decision is whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the suit in the first place.”
“In pre-election matters, parties have 14 days from the date of action’s commencement to file an action in court.” The timeframe is immovable, like the Rock of Gibraltar.
“Because the cause of action arose in June 2022, when the Labour Party held its primaries, one could conclude that the matter is already status barred, as the action was only filed on May 11, 2023.”
“Another thing that bothers me is how the case was instituted on May 11 and the judgement was delivered on May 18, both within a 7-day period.”
“It’s also unclear whether LP’s Alex Oti is a party to the suit and whether the judgement applies to him.””While the judgement appears to be correct in light of the Electoral Act provisions, there are some other surrounding circumstances, as highlighted above, that could lead to its overturn on appeal.”
Ubani stated that the court’s reference to Section 77 of the Electoral Act of 2022 is dependent on a number of factors, including:
“Who is the plaintiff, and what is his point of contact in this case?” Is he running for president, governor, or the legislature in the current election? Did the section of the Act impose any penalties on the party’s candidates or the party itself for noncompliance?
“How come this issue was not brought up earlier?” Or has it already been raised and disposed of? Why was the suit filed in Federal High Court rather than the Election Petition Tribunal, given that an election had already been held and a winner declared?”If this is considered a pre-election grievance, is the aggrieved not covered by S285(9) of the 1999 constitution, which allows an aggrieved candidate only 14 days to file a pre-election matter?” So many unanswered questions.
“If we all agree that this is a pre-election matter, what was this meddling interloper and busybody doing at the Federal High Court in Kano after several months of primaries?” Was the Federal High Court the proper court with jurisdiction, even if it was a post-election matter? He inquired.
Ubani argued that if a candidate is found to be ineligible to run for office, whether as governor or legislator, the issue must be raised as soon as possible because it is a pre-election matter.He did, however, point out that it is within the prerogative of the person contesting a candidate’s qualification to raise it either before or after the election.
“However, he has 14 days to file the action questioning his eligibility in a pre-election contest.” He is forever barred if he fails, refuses, or neglects to file a pre-election suit within the 14-day period allowed by the constitution.
“It is statutorily prohibited to file the same suit as a pre-election matter after the election has been held and the results have been announced with a winner.”
“However, if he wishes to challenge the election after it has been held and the results have been announced, he must do so only through the Election Petition Tribunal and nowhere else.” It means that the case must be heard by the Supreme Court. “The winner retains power until the Supreme Court issues its final decision,” he stated.