The President of Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network, CRRAN, Olu Omotayo, says that the Court of Appeal has now established the issue of locus standi in matters relating to challenging the outcomes of the primary election of political parties.
Nigerians have recently questioned some decisions arising from the courts, especially on pre-election matters.
However, Omotayo said both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court frowned at what he termed the busybody attitude of some political actors, who challenge the primary elections of parties other than their own.
The lawyer and activist said that although the lower courts appear to be divided on the subject, the Court of Appeal had through several recent verdicts shown that the nascent Electoral Act 2022 had not changed anything about who could challenge the processes leading up to, as well as the conduct and outcome of primary elections of political parties.
He cited the January 5, 2023 decision of the Court of Appeal Port Harcourt Division in the case ABUEH & Others V. PDP & Others Suit No: CA/PH/557/2022, where the court held: “A political party is not allowed by extant Electoral Act, 2022 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to sue another political party in a bid to challenge the nomination of the latter party’s candidates elected from primary election conducted by the latter political party and seeking to prevent the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from acting on the list of candidates submitted to it by the political party sued”.
He also cited a January 23, 2023, decision of the Makurdi Division of the Court of Appeal in PDP & Others V. INEC & Others, Appeal No. CA/MK/PE/15/2022 where the Court was called upon to interpret the cumulative effect of Sections 77(2) and (3), 82(1), (2) and (5); 84(1), (4)(a)-(c) and (13) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Omotayo said Justice Biobele Georgewill, who read the appellate court’s judgement stated: “In the light of all I have stated above, it seems clear to me and I so firmly hold that by whatever canons of interpretation employed on the provisions and wordings of Section 285(14) (c) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended it can neither accommodate nor confer any locus standi on one political party to challenge the internal affairs or planning, preparations and holding of the primary election of another political party.
“Simply put, the Appellants/Cross-Respondents, being PDP and its candidates for the House of Representatives in the 2023 General Elections lack the locus standi to challenge by way of instituting their Suit before the lower Court to challenge the planning, preparations and holding or even non holding of primary elections by the 2ndRespondent, APC”.
He also referenced another Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division’s judgement of November 29, 2022 in the case of PDP V. INEC & OTHERS, Appeal No.CA/PH/480/2022 where the court went further to add that only aspirants, who participated in a primary, not just any member of a particular political party, could challenge the process of a primary election.
According to him, delivering the judgement, Justice Gabriel Kolawole stated: “The appellant is a member of PDP not APC, and even if he is a member of the APC, he would have no locus to challenge the nomination of the 1st Respondent as he is not one of the Aspirants who participated in the primary election. In my view he is a meddlesome interloper who, having assumed the position of hired mourner, is crying more than the bereaved”.
The activist added that the decisions were in tandem with the verdicts of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court before the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022, citing the Supreme Court in the Case Alhasan & Ano V. Ishaku & Others in SC.907/2015, which was delivered on January 8, 2016.
The Supreme Court held: “Only an aspirant at the primary election is permitted by Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to challenge the selection or nomination of a person for an elective office. Apart from an aspirant who took part in the primary election, no other person is authorised to file an action to challenge the selection or nomination of a candidate by a political party for an election.
“As I said earlier, the appellant is a member of the PDP, not APC and even if he is a member of the APC, he would have no locus to challenge the nomination of the 1st Respondent as he is not one of the aspirants who participated in the primary election.
“In my view, Appellant is a meddlesome interloper who, having assumed the role of a hired mourner, is crying more than the bereaved”.
Omotayo regretted a situation where the judiciary is bugged down by a plethora of litigations even on matters already abundantly decided and eloquently made clear by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, and called on the political parties and politicians to play by the rule to strengthen the nation’s democracy.