Appeal Court Dismisses LP’s Case Against Senator Tinubu

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, yesterday dismissed an appeal filed by the Labour Party (LP) against the election of Senator Oluremi Tinubu.

It held that the appeal lacked merit, and awarded N30,000 cost against the party.

The court also dismissed an appeal filed by LP’s candidate for Surulere II Federal Constituency, Prince Sunday Aderonmu, saying it lacked merit.

Senator Tinubu, of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), represents the Lagos Central Senatorial District.

LP had challenged the decision of the National Assembly/legislative House Election Petition Tribunal, Lagos, to strike out its petition because 180 days had lapsed.

The tribunal had said it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the “unlawful exclusion” petition after the Supreme Court held in a judgment on the case involving the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) vs. Alhaji Muhammed Goni & others that petitions must be concluded within 180 days.

Dismissing LP’s appeal, Justice John Inyang said yesterday that he was shocked that the LP would challenge the tribunal’s decision which was based on an “unambiguous pronouncement” of the Supreme Court.

He said to allow the appeal would be to return to the days when election petitions dragged on endlessly.

“It will mean taking us back to the dark years when election petitions took years to complete.

“It is in the interest of Nigerians and the judiciary to allow the sleeping dog to lie quietly,” the justice said.

Justice Inyang said the principle of stare decisis (legal obligation to respect legal precedent) was well-entrenched to avoid judicial anarchy.

He said the Supreme Court judgment based on section 285 of the Constitution was very clear that a tribunal should deliver judgment in writing within 180 days from the day a petition was filed.

According to him, LP’s petition was 300 days old when the tribunal struck it out, meaning that the petition no longer existed in the eye of the law.

He alluded to the fact that a Supreme Court’s decision is like “a rock of Gibraltar or Mount Zion which cannot be moved.”

Justice Inyang said although the Appeal Court had initially made an order for a retrial of the petition before the tribunal dismissed it, “even an order for retrial cannot extend the 180 days.’’

“This is explicit enough for all discerning minds to imbibe,” Justice Inyang said.

He added that it would amount to “impunity, impertinence and recklessness” to ignore a Supreme Court pronouncement.

Lauding the tribunal, the justice said to disobey the highest court in the land and continue with proceedings “is like suicide.”

He said in the hierarchy of courts, no matter how “learned” a lower court considers itself to be, it must submit to the decisions of a higher court.

“I am happy that the tribunal was aware of this and acted appropriately,” said Justice Inyang.

He added: “The Supreme Court has spoken. Be it sweet or bitter, we must swallow it.”

He said Nigerians should be grateful for the constitutional provision which set a time frame for the conclusion of election petitions.

According to him, it has provided a way to “navigate” out of prolonged determination of election cases, in which previous ones were abused by endless applications that stretched proceedings for several years.

That, he said, made Nigeria a laughing stock in the international community.

“The appeal lacks merit,” Justice Iyang concluded.

Two other justices agreed. Justice Regina Pemu said: “The appeal is devoid of merit and same is hereby dismissed with N30,000 cost.”

Justice Pemu, in another judgment, dismissed an appeal filed by LP’s candidate for Surulere II Federal Constituency, Prince Sunday Aderonmu.

LP and Aderonmu had appealed the tribunal’s dismissal of their petition because it exceeded 180 days, arguing that they were denied fair hearing.

Justice Pemu said: “It erases all borders of decency and rule of law to disregard a Supreme Court judgment.”

Besides, she said the appellants could not complain of lack of fair hearing when their petition was based on a “faulty foundation”, having lapsed.

According to her, the fact that the Court of Appeal is the final court for determination of House of Representatives appeals does not mean it is no longer subordinate to the Supreme Court.

“The decisions of the Supreme Court are sacrosanct and unimpeachable…To allow this appeal will be inviting anarchy in the judicial realm and terrain. The appeal is hereby dismissed with N30,000 cost.”

Justice Pemu said the enactment on 180 days for conclusion of election petitions should be welcomed by everyone, including judges and lawyers, because of its many benefits, including removing the “helplessness” judges and petitioners faced in the past.

LP, in a six-page Notice of Appeal, had urged the appellate court to set aside the ruling of the tribunal and order it to conclude hearing of its petition.

It contended that the facts in case between ANPP vs. Alhaji Muhammed Goni & others on which the Supreme Court based its decision were entirely different from the ones contained in its petition.

The party argued that by virtue of Section 246 of the Constitution its petition was not status-barred as both the earlier ruling of the tribunal and the order of the Court of Appeal were within the stipulated perioa of 180 days.

Besides, the party argued that the tribunal erred in law and totally misapplied the decision of the Supreme Court and thereby occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.

It said it was wrong for the tribunal to use the Supreme Court’s decision as a reason to bury the right to appeal by aggrieved persons.

The tribunal had earlier fixed March 5 to deliver judgment on the petition, but it had to invite parties to appear in court for the judgment in view of the Supreme Court decision.
Appeal Court Dismisses LP’s Case Against Senator Tinubu