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How courts dismissed post-election cases against Tinubu’s inauguration

Last week, courts dismissed at least four cases seeking to stop the inauguration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as President of Nigeria for being “frivolous”. The…

Last week, courts dismissed at least four cases seeking to stop the inauguration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as President of Nigeria for being “frivolous”.

The dismissals began in the matter filed by the former presidential candidate of Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Ambrose Owuru; then the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appeal at the Supreme Court; the suit by Concerned Nigerians at the Federal High Court in Abuja; and the undetermined application by FCT residents and voters.

Since March 1, after the announcement of Tinubu as president-elect following the February 25 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), different groups have approached the courts seeking to stop his inauguration.

Several disqualifying issues were raised including the allegations of manipulation and INEC’s non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, 2022 and guidelines for live transmission of results of the elections directly from the polling units, which have since been taken to the Presidential Election Petitions Court.

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There are now three petitions of the Labour Party (LP), Allied People’s Movement (APM) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after those of Action Alliance (AA) and Allied Peoples Party (APP) were dismissed upon their withdrawal.

Cases dismissed in quick succession

On Thursday, while dismissing the application by Owuru, the Court of Appeal awarded the sum of N40 million against him for bringing an application that would set the lower courts against the Supreme Court which had earlier in 2019 determined the matter.

In the leading judgment by Jamil Tukur, a three-member panel of justices of the appellate court described the appeal as a gross abuse of the court process by filing frivolous, vexatious and irritating suits to provoke the respondents.

Owuru, who ran under the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), claimed in suit number CA/CV/259/2023 that he won the 2019 presidential election and was impacted by the rescheduling of the polls and that holding the inauguration will amount to usurpation of his mandate.

Earlier, counsel to Tinubu, Adelani Ajibade Esq., pleaded with the appellate court to sustain the decision of the Supreme Court on October 11, 2019, and dismiss the appeal with a cost of N20 million.

In the appeal of the PDP against the nomination of Kashim Shettima as the vice-presidential candidate of the APC, the five-member panel of justices led by Justice Inyang Okoro held that the appeal was frivolous, grossly incompetent and lacked merit.

The apex court awarded the sum of N2 million in extra cost against the PDP for the appeal to the earlier N5 million by the Court of Appeal.

The apex court held that a political party cannot challenge the actions of another party, no matter how manifestly unlawful that action is, adding that the PDP did not participate in the APC primary that produced the party’s candidate.

The PDP, through its lawyers, Joe Agi (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN), had accused Shettima of double nomination as the senatorial candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District and vice-presidential candidate of the APC, which they contended breached sections 29(1), 33, 35, and 84(1)(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

But Lateef Fagbemi, the lead counsel to the APC and Tinubu, argued that the PDP lacked the locus standi to bring the action, adding that the matter was within the APC’s internal affairs and thus, non-justiciable.

Reading his concurrent judgement, Justice Inyang Okoro said the attitude of the PDP amounted to misleading the court after they held that the lower court made a finding of fact that Shettima had knowingly allowed himself to be nominated into two different constituencies for the February 25 presidential election in breach of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Later the same day, the suit filed by a group of Concerned Nigerians, seeking to stop the inauguration of Tinubu over alleged perjury on his dual citizenship of Nigeria and Guinea, was dismissed by a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Justice James Omotosho held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

The court also held that the applicants, being participants as only voters in the February 25 presidential election do not afford them the locus standi to bring the action.

The court ordered the applicants, Praise Ilemona Isaiah, Pastor Paul Isaac Audu and Dr Anongu Moses and their lawyer, Daniel Elombah to pay the sum of N17 million to Tinubu and APC.

They are to pay the president-elect N10m and APC N5m, while their lawyer is to pay both N1m each.

The judge ordered a 10 per cent interest on the cost until it is liquidated.

Also on May 26, the suit by FCT residents and voters before the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the inauguration of Bola Tinubu as president over non-compliance with constitutional provision on spread, was declined by the court.

Justice Inyang Ekwo had earlier fixed the matter for hearing on Wednesday, May 24, but when parties arrived at the court, officials told them to return on Friday and on their return, they learnt that the judge was not available for sitting.

The judge had on Thursday, May 15 adjourned the suit after directing the counsel to the residents, Chuks Nwachukwu, to bring his address to the court on three grounds bordering on their locus standi, jurisdiction and whether there is a similar matter before the presidential elections court.

The residents, represented by Anyaegbunam Ubaka Okoye, David Aondover Adzer, Jeffrey Oheobeh Ucheh, Osang Paul and Chibuke Nwachukwu, brought the ex parte motion against the Attorney General of the Federation and the Chief Justice of Nigeria over the constitutional matter.

They informed the court that it has jurisdiction to refer the determination of Section 134(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution that any candidate in the February 25 presidential election who did not fulfil the requirements of scoring 25 per cent of the votes in the FCT cannot be validly declared as the winner of the election.

Locus standi is a threshold for disputes- Lawyers 

 Human rights activist, Barrister Abubakar Sanni, said the principle of locus standi relied on by the courts in most of the election cases as a threshold issue impinges on a court’s jurisdiction.

According to him, “A court is not a place where every person – regardless of his or her remoteness to an otherwise valid cause of action – can approach to ventilate a supposed grievance. It is not an all-comers affair.

“In the context of electoral disputes (specifically pre-election) matters, apart from a situation where a political party can challenge INEC’s disqualification of candidates, no party is competent (possesses the locus) to challenge the validity of the candidate of another party.

“As to any apparently inappropriate steps taken by counsel in litigation, adequate provisions exist in both the Legal Practitioners Rules of Professional Conduct and in the inherent jurisdiction of a court or tribunal for dealing with them. That is enough to check against their (ie, counsel’s) otherwise unrestricted/unqualified constitutional right to appear in any court of law or tribunal to practice their profession.”

For his part, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq opined that there was a need to strengthen the principles guiding filings to discourage lawyers and litigants from bringing frivolous applications by awarding damning costs.

“The court needs to send a message to the public that the right to expression should not be misused or abused, especially to the extent of encroaching into the right of another person or wasting judicial time or dragging another person to court by frivolous applications or suits,” he said.

 “I believe the recent developments and or decisions as to costs by the Supreme Court and the Federal High Court have clearly shown the objections of the courts to such frivolous and vexatious suits.”


By John C. Azu & Adelanwa Bamgboye, Lagos

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