A.P.C v. Moses (2021)

A.P.C.v.Moses11October2021

AL L PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC)

V.

1.DELE MOSES

2.POOMI FRIDAY

3.GBOSI VINCENT

4.NWANKWO FREEDOM

5.OTIOMA LUCKY

6.KINGDOM NWOSU

7.TUANWIN ATENI

8.UGOCHUKWU NWOCHA

9.PETER N. BOBMANUEL

10.EMMANUEL OKIASI

11.ADAMS OSHIOMHOLE

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

SC/CV/29/2021

AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, J.S.C. (Presided and Read the Leading Judgment)

ADAMU JAURO, J.S.C.

SAMUEL CHUKWUDUMEBI OSEJI, J.S.C.

TIJJANI ABUBAKAR, J.S.C.

EMMANUEL AKOMAYE AGIM, J.S.C.

FRIDAY, 5TH MARCH 2021

ACTION – Justiciability of action – “Justiciable” – “Non-justiciable” – Meanings of – Distinction between.

ACTION – Justiciability of action – Internal affairs of political party- Whether justiciable – Rule that same is outside jurisdiction ofcourt – Rationale therefor – Exceptions thereto.

CASE LAW – Foss v. Harbottle (1843) 2 Hare 461 – Rule therein -Application of – Exceptions thereto.

COMMERCIAL LAW – Voluntary association – Constitution andregulations of – Breach of – Whether a member can sue thereon.

COMMERC IAL LAW – Voluntary associations – Internal affairs of- Jurisdiction of court to entertain – Whether extant – Whethercause of action justiciable – Relevant considerations.

COMPANY LAW – Foss v. Harbottle (1843) 2 Hare 461 – Ruletherein – Application of – Exceptions thereto.

COMPANY LAW – Voluntary association – Constitution andregulations of – Breach of – Whether a member can sue thereon.

COMPANY LAW – Voluntary associations – Internal affairs of -Jurisdiction of court to entertain – Whether extant – Whethercause of action justiciable – Relevant considerations.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – Pre-election matter – Meaning of -Section 285(14) (a), and (c), Constitution of the FederalRepublic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – Section 285(14) to (c), Constitutionof the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 – Items expresslylisted therein – Whether excludes those not listed therein.

COURT – Jurisdiction of court – Cases dealing with internal affairsof political party – Jurisdiction of court to entertain – Whetherextant – Whether cause of action justiciable – Relevantconsiderations.

COURT – Jurisdiction of court – Internal affairs of voluntaryassociations – Jurisdiction of court to entertain – Whetherextant – Whether cause of action justiciable – Relevantconsiderations.

ELECTION – Pre-election matter – Meaning of – Section 285(14)(a), and (c), Constitution of the Federal Republic ofNigeria, 1999 (as amended).

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES – Interpretation of statutes -Principles guiding – Where statute expressly mentions certainthings – Whether excludes those not mentioned.

INTERPRETATION O F STATUTES – Section 285(14) (a), b) and(c), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 -Items expressly listed therein – Whether excludes those notlisted therein.

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES – Word or phrase in a statute -Meaning of – Where defined – Principles guiding.

JUDICIAL PRECEDENT – Case – Need to be an authority for whatit decides.

JUDICIAL PRECEDENT – Doctrine of judicial precedent -Meaning and application of.

JUDICIAL PRECEDENT – Doctrine of stare decisis – Basis of -Ratio decidendi – Obiter dictum – Distinction between.

JURISDICTION – Internal affairs of political party – Cases dealingwith – Jurisdiction of court to entertain – Whether extant -Whether cause of action justiciable – Relevant considerations.

JURISDICTION – Internal affairs of voluntary associations -Jurisdiction of court to entertain – Whether extant – Whethercause of action justiciable – Relevant considerations.

MAXIMS – Express mention of certain things excludes those notmentioned – Meaning and application of.

POLITICAL PARTY – Internal affairs of political party – Casesdealing with – Jurisdiction of court to entertain – Whetherextant – Whether cause of action justiciable – Relevantconsiderations.

POLITICAL PARTY – Internal affairs of political party – Whetherjusticiable – Rule that same is outside jurisdiction of court -Rationale therefor – Exceptions thereto.

POLITICAL PARTY – Political party – Decision of over its domesticor internal affairs – Finality of.

POLITICAL PARTY – Political party – N ature of – Rules, regulations,guidelines and constitution of – Bindingness of on members.

PRACTI CE AND PROCEDURE – Jurisdiction of court – Casesdealing with internal affairs of political party – Jurisdiction ofcourt to entertain – Whether extant – Whether cause of actionjusticiable – Relevant considerations.

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – Justiciability of action – Internalaffairs of political party – Whether justiciable – Rule thatsame is outside jurisdiction of court – Rationale therefor -Exceptions thereto.

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – Justiciability of action-”Justiciable” – “Non-justiciable” – Meanings of – Distinctionbetween.

PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION – Interpretation of statutes -Principles guiding – Where statute expressly mentions certainthings – Whether excludes those not mentioned.

STARE DECISIS – Case – Need to be an authority for what it decides.

STARE DECISIS – Doctrine of judicial precedent – Meaning andapplication of.

STARE DECISIS – Doctrine of stare decisis – Basis of – Ratiodecidendi – Obiter dictum – Distinction between.

STATUTE – Interpretation of statutes – Principles guiding – Wherestatute expressly mentions certain things – Whether excludesthose not mentioned.

STATUTE – Section 285(14) (a), and (c), Constitution of theFederal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 – Items expressly listedtherein – Whether excludes those not listed therein.

STATUTE – Word or phrase in a statute – Meaning of – Wheredefined – Principles guiding.

WORDS AND PHRASES – Doctrine of judicial precedent – Meaningand application of.

WORDS AND PHRASES – “Justiciable” – “Non-justiciable” -Meanings of – Distinction between.

WORD S AND PHRASES – Pre-election matter – Meaning of -Section 285(14) (a), and (c), Constitution of the FederalRepublic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

WORDS AND PHRASES – Ratio decidendi – Obiter dictum -Distinction between.

Issue:

Whether the Court of Appeal was right to rely on thedecision of the Supreme Court in APC v. Umar (2019) 8NWLR (Pt. 1675) 564 to arrive at its conclusion that theinstant action was a pre-election matter.

Facts:

In December 2019, the appellant, All Progressives Congress(APC), invited all its members in Rivers State, who were interestedin participating in congresses to fill positions at the Wards, LocalGovernments and State, to obtain nomination forms.

Consequent upon the invitation, the 1st – 10th respondentsinstituted Suit No. PH/4634/2019 at the High Court of Rivers State.In the action, they claimed, inter alia, that sequel to the judgmentsof the High Court of Rivers State in BHC/78/2018: Ibrahim Umar& 22 Ors. v. APC, Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/PH/461/2018:APC v. Umar & 22 Ors., and Supreme Court in SC.1333/2018:APC v. Umar & 22 Ors., it was only the claimants and all membersof the 1st defendant, who paid for the nomination forms for the May5, 2018 ward congresses of the 1st defendant in Rivers State thatwere entitled and qualified to participate in the ward congresses inRivers State that was yet to be conducted, and injunctive reliefs.

Upon being served, the defendants, including the appellant,filed a motion and prayed the court for an order to strike outthe originating summons for being incompetent and for lack ofjurisdiction, on the ground, inter alia, that the subject matter of thesuit being domestic and internal affairs of a political party was non-justiciable in law court.

The preliminary objection and the main suit were heardtogether.

The trial court, in its judgment, dismissed the preliminaryobjection of the defendants as.lacking in merit and held that thecourt had jurisdiction to entertain and determine the suit and grantedall the reliefs sought.

The appellant and the 11th respondent were aggrieved at thejudgment of the trial court and they appealed to the Court of Appeal.The 1st – 10th respondents raised a notice of preliminary objectionto the hearing of the appeal. The grounds of the objection werethat the appeal at the Court of Appeal was a pre-election matterand that the appeal which was filed on 10th June 2020 ought tohave been disposed of within 60 days of filing the appeal which 60days elapsed on 8th August 2020, and that the appeal at the Court ofAppeal had become incompetent and academic and was liable to bestruck out.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal upheld the preliminaryobjection but still determined the merits of the appeal and struckout the appeal for want of jurisdiction.

Still dissatisfied, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Courtagainst the part/portion of the decision of the Court of Appeal whichupheld the 1st – 10th respondents’ notice of preliminary objectionand struck out the appellant’s appeal on the ground that same arosefrom a pre-election matter which ought to have been disposed ofwithin 60 days of filing the appeal.

The cross-appellants also cross-appealed to the SupremeCourt against that part of the decision of the Court of Appeal whereit determined the merits of the appeal after holding that it lackedjurisdiction to entertain the appeal.

In determining the appeal, the Supreme Court considered theprovisions of Section 285(14) (a), and of the Constitution ofthe Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which says:

285(14) “For the purpose of this section “pre-election matter”means any suit by:

An aspirant, who complains that any of theprovisions of the Electoral Act or any Act ofthe National Assembly regulating the conductof primaries of political parties and theprovisions of the guidelines of a political partyfor the conduct of party primaries, has not beencomplied with by a political party in respect ofthe selection or nomination of candidates for(a)an election.

An aspirant challenging the decisions oractivities of the Independent National(b)Electoral Commission [INEC] in respect of his participation in an election or who complainsthat the provisions of the Electoral Act or anyelections in Nigeria has not been compliedwith by INEC in respect of the selection ornomination of candidates and participation inan election; and

A political party challenging the actions,decisions or activities of INEC disqualifyingcandidates from participating in an election ora complaint that the provisions of the ElectoralAct or any applicable law has not been compliedwith by INEC in respect of the nomination ofcandidates of political parties for an election,timetable for an election, registration of votersand other activities of the Commission in(c)respect of preparation for an election.”

Held (Unanimously allowing the appeal and striking out the cross-appeal):

1.On Meaning of “pre-election matter” –

Section 285(14) – of the Constitution of theFederal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended),which defines what a pre-election matter is, speaks ofaspirants, who complain about the conduct of partyprimaries in respect of the selection or nomination ofcandidates for an election; aspirants, who challengeactions, decisions or activities of INEC, in respectof their participation in an election; and politicalparties that challenge actions, decisions or activitiesof INEC, in respect of nominations of candidates foran election, timetable for an election, registration ofvoters and other activities in respect of preparationfor an election. This definition does not admit ofcongresses that may or may not one day lead to anelection. In Suit No. PH/4634/2019, filed by the firstset of respondents, they did not claim to be aspirantscomplaining about the conduct of any primaries orchallenging actions, decisions or activities of INEC.They challenged guidelines issued for the conduct

of Congresses, and they claimed declaratory reliefsinter alia that they were entitled to participate inthe Ward Congresses that was yet to be conducted.There has to be a point at which political partieswill leave the courts out of their domestic wranglesor internal leadership tussles. To widen the net andallow the courts to be seen as an integral part ofthe political struggle for power is not in the interestof anyone. In the circumstances of the instant case,the suit filed at the trial court was not a pre-electionmatter. (Pp. 319-320, paras. E-B)

2.On Meaning of “pre-election matter” –

In determining what a pre-election matter is,recourse must be made to the statutory definitionof the phrase pre-election matter as provided forunder section 285 (a – c) of the Constitution ofthe Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).By the section, “pre-election matter” means anysuit by –

an aspirant who complains that any of theprovisions of the Electoral Act or any Actof the National Assembly regulating theconduct of primaries of political parties andthe provisions of the guidelines of a politicalparty for conduct of party primaries hasnot been complied with by a political partyin respect of the selection or nomination of(a)candidates for an election;

an aspirant challenging the actions, decisionsor activities of the Independent NationalElectoral Commission in respect of hisparticipation in an election or who complainsthat the provisions of the Electoral Act orany Act of the National Assembly regulatingelections in Nigeria has not been compliedwith by the Independent National ElectoralCommission in respect of the selection ornomination of candidates and participation(b)in an election; and a political party challenging the actions,decisions or activities of the IndependentNational Electoral Commission disqualifyingits candidate from participating in anelection or a complaint that the provisionsof the Electoral Act or any other applicablelaw has not been complied with by theIndependent National Electoral Commissionin respect of the nomination of candidatesof political parties for an election, timetablefor an election, registration of voters andother activities of the Commission in respect(c)of preparation for an election.

From the statutory definition of “pre-election”, theaction culminating into the instant appeal was nota pre-election matter. By virtue of the overridingeffect of the Constitution, the Supreme Court doesnot have the vires to expand the definition and scopeof pre-election matter beyond section 285(14) ofthe Constitution. This can only be done if the saidsection is amended but until then, every judicialinterpretation of the term “pre-election matter”ought to be considered within the parameters ofsection 285(14) of the Constitution. [APC v. Umar(2019) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1675) 564 distinguished.] (Pp.321-323, paras. G-A)

3.On Principles guiding meaning of word or phrasedefined in a statute –

Where a particular word or phrase is defined ina statute, its meaning would be as so defined inthe statute. No other meaning can be given to theword or phrase outside its definition by the statute.Where a word or phrase has been defined in anenactment, that meaning must be restricted tothe words so defined in the statute, the definitiongoverns. Therefore, the word “pre-election” havingbeen defined by section 285(14) of the Constitutionof the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, no othermeaning can be given to it, except the one givento it by its definition in section 285(14) of the 1999
Constitution. The use of the limiting word “means”in defining a pre-election matter further limitsits meaning to only that listed therein. In view ofthe clear provisions of section 285(14) of the 1999Constitution, the suit at the trial court that led to theinstant appeal was not a pre-election matter, becauseit was brought by members of a political partyclaiming inter alia that only the claimants and allmembers of the appellant who paid for nominationforms for the cancelled May 5, 2018 ward congresseswere entitled and qualified to participate in wardcongresses that were yet to be conducted. Theclaimants were not aspirants in a primary electionof the party. Their action did not complain that theselection or nomination of the party’s candidate fora general election did not comply with the ElectoralAct or its Electoral Guidelines. Their action didnot challenge the action of INEC in respect of theselection or nomination of the party’s candidatefor a general election. The action was not broughtby a political party challenging the action of INECdisqualifying its candidate from participating ina general election or that the decision or action ofINEC in respect of nomination of its candidate foran election, timetable for an election, registration ofvoters, and other activities of INEC in respect of animpending election is contrary to the Electoral Actor other laws. [Anya v. Iyayi (1993) 7 NWLR (P. 365)290 referred to; APC v. Umar (2019) 8 NWLR (Pt.1675) 564 distinguished.] (Pp. 324-325, paras. C-B)

4.On Principles guiding interpretation of statute whichexpressly mentions certain things –

Where a statute expressly lists the items to whichit applies, it excludes those not listed therein. Thisinterpretative rule is often expressed in the maxim:the express mention of certain things excludes thosenot mentioned. In the instant case, section 285(14)to of the Constitution of the Federal Republicof Nigeria 1999, by expressly listing the three typesof matters that constitute or m ean a pre-election(a)matter, clearly excluded the matters not mentioned there in. So if section 285(14) had intended thatactions concerning the future conduct of partycongresses for any purpose should constitute pre-election matters, it would have stated so. Sincesuch actions are not listed in section 285(14) as pre-election matters, they are not. The suit leading tothe instant appeal was not a pre-election matter. (P.325, paras. B-E)

5.On Need for a case to be an authority for what itdecides –

A case is an authority for what it decides. Relyingon a case without relating it to the facts that inducedit amounts to citing the case out of proper context.[Okafor v. Nnaife (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt. 64) 129;Adegoke Motors Ltd. v. Adesanya (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt.109) 250; Izeze v. INEC (2018) 11 NWLR (Pt.1629)110; P.D.P. v. INEC (2018) 12 NWLR (Pt.1634) 533referred to.] (P. 311, para. G)

6.On Basis of doctrine of stare decisis and distinctionbetween ratio decidendi and obiter dictum –

The doctrine of stare decisis is based on what isdescribed as “ratio decidendi” [reason for deciding]of a judgment. This is to say, it is the reason forwhich a particular judgment has been deliveredthat forms the fulcrum for being followed in asubsequent decision. What remains in the judgmentis described as obiter dictum [something said inpassing]; the opinion of the court upon which noissue had been joined by the parties. [AdegokeMotors Ltd. v. Adesanya (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 109)250 referred to.] (P. 311, paras. A-B)

7.On Meaning and application of doctrine of judicialprecedent –

It is not everything said by a Judge, who givesjudgment, that constitutes a precedent. The onlything in a Judge’s decision binding a party is theprinciple upon which the case is decided and forthis reason, it is important to analyse a decision and is olate it from the ratio decidendi. What is of essencein the decision is its ratio and not every observationfound therein; not what logically follows from thevarious observations made in the judgment. Everyjudgment must be read as applicable to the particularfacts proved, since the generality of the expressions,which may be found there, is not intended to beexposition of the whole law. It would, therefore, benot profitable to extract a sentence here and therefrom the judgment and to build upon it becausethe essence of the decision is its ratio and not everyobservation found therein. The enunciation of thereason or principle on which a decision before acourt has been decided, is alone binding betweenthe parties to it, but it, is the abstract ratio d ecidendiascertained on a consideration of the judgment inrelation to the subject matter of the decision, whichalone has the force of law, and which, when it isclear what it was, is binding. Therefore, in orderto understand and appreciate the binding force ofa decision, it is always necessary to see what thefacts in the case in which the decision was given andwhat was the point, which had to be decided. Nojudgment can be read as if it is a statute. A wordor a clause or a sentence in the judgment cannot beregarded as a full exposition of law. In other words,in determining whether an earlier decision qualifiesas binding precedent, a judgment cannot be readas if it is a statute, Simply put, the law requiresthe judge to chisel out the reason or rationale for aparticular decision, and it is this reason, which hasto be followed. (Pp. 312-313, paras. B-A)

8.On Application of doctrine of stare decisis –

Every case is determined on its own merits. Thedoctrine of precedent or stare decisis is not applied invacuo; it must be done in context. Thus, the facts ofboth cases must either be the same or similar beforethe decision in an earlier case can be used in a latercase. In the instant case, the decision of the SupremeCourt in APC v. Umar (2019) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1675) 564, must be viewed within the peculiar circumstances ofthat case. It is not enough for a party to say that theSupreme Court has made pronouncement in one case,therefore, it will automatically become a precedentin another case. In the circumstances of the instantcase, the facts of the case were not the same as thefacts of the case in APC v. Umar (2019) 8 NWLR (Pt.1675) 564, to warrant the same treatment. [Yaki v.Bagudu (2015) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1491) 288 referred to.](P. 319, paras. B-E)

Per AUGIE, J.S.C. at pages 313, paras. A-B; 317,paras. F-G:

“In this case, to find out whether the Court ofAppeal was right to rely upon the said decisionof this court in A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), the trialcourt’s decision in suit no. BHC/78/2018, mustbe analysed, to see what the facts were, and thepoint, which had to be decided….To be clear,the decision of the trial court in that suit wasnever considered on its merits, either at theCourt of Appeal or this Court. Appeal CA/PH/461/2018 filed at the Court of Appeal wasstruck out, because appellants did not seekleave of court to file the appeal, and Appeal NoSC.1333/2018: A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), filed inthis Court, was also struck out on the groundthat it was a pre-election matter.”

Per AUGIE, J.S.C. at pages 317-318, paras. G-B;318-319, paras.G-E:
“The question in this appeal is whether thefacts of that case are the same or similar to thiscase, to warrant the same treatment, basedon the decision of this court in the said A.P.C.v. Umar (supra). The appellant’s viewpoint isthat the facts of this case are different.

To cut to the chase, I must say that I agreewith the appellant. It is clear from the decisionof the trial court in suit No. BHC/78/2018that the party congresses , which was thesubject matter of the suit, were entwined withprimaries conducted by APC in preparation for the general election, so one could not beextricated from the other.

There was no dividing line between thesaid party congresses and APC’s preparationfor the 2019 General Elections. What is more,the trial court made it abundantly clear thatits reason for deciding, and for making theconsequential orders nullifying not just thesaid party congresses, but also the Primariescarried out by the party, was because they wereconducted during the pendency of the suit….So, in A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), the action hadalready been instituted, before APC conductedthe congresses and primaries to choose thecandidates for the 2019 general election thatwas round the corner.

In this case, the first set of respondentssubmitted that the Party Congresses wouldeventually lead to an election; and that the“party officials that would be elected at anyCongress – – – will turn out to be delegates thatwould nominate candidates for Party Primariesin the forthcoming General Elections”. Theappellant argued in its reply brief to theirbrief that their use of the words “eventual” and“would”, underscores its position that theirsuit cannot be in the same category with A.P.C.v. Umar (supra), because it is speculative.

I agree. The situation in APC v. Umar(supra) is not the same, and it cannot, by anystretch of imagination, be compared with thesituation in this case, where there is no generalelection in sight.

It is trite law that every case is determinedon its own merits. The decision of this court inAPC v. Umar (supra), must be viewed within thepeculiar circumstances of that case. It is notenough for a Party to say that this court hasmade pronouncement in one case, therefore,it will automatically become a precedent inanother case. No, the doctrine of precedent or stare decisis is not applied in vacuo; it must bedone in context. Thus, the facts of both casesmust either be the same or similar before thedecision in an earlier case can be used in alater case – Yaki v. Bagudu (2015) 18 NWLR (Pt.1491) 288 SC.

In the circumstances of this case, I willanswer the question in the negative. The factsof this case are not the same as the facts of thecase in A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), to warrant thesame treatment. The suit that led to this appealis certainly not a pre-election matter.”

9.On Jurisdiction of court to entertain cases dealingwith internal affairs of political party –

A political party is supreme over its own affairs,and a court of law has no jurisdiction to questionthe exercise of its discretion, one way or the other.One basic rationale behind this principle of law isthat since persons have freely given their consent tobe bound by the rules and regulations of a politicalparty, they should be left alone to be governed bysuch rules and regulations. Once persons have freelymortgaged their consciences to a situation, courtsof law should not interfere. In the instant case, thesuit filed at the trial court was not a pre-electionmatter. It touches on the domestic or internal affairsof a political party, which was within the exclusiveprovince of the party. The effect of which was thatthe cross-appeal had no legs to stand on, becausethe suit filed at the trial court, was not a pre-electionmatter. [Dalhatu v. Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 843)310 referred to.] (P. 320, paras. C-F)

10.On Jurisdiction of court to entertain cases dealingwith internal affairs of political party –

Court’s jurisdiction is ousted in matters dealingwith internal affairs or resolution of a politicalparty regarding nomination or leadership of thatpolitical party. The instant cross-appeal filed bythe respondents/cross appellants was centered on issues bordering on operations of the domestic andinternal affairs of the political party which is withinthe control of the party. Actions predicated onconduct of domestic and internal affairs of politicalparties are non-justiciable. Thus, the SupremeCourt did not have the jurisdictional competenceto venture into the determination of the suitculminating into the cross-appeal. The appeal hadmerit and same was allowed. On the other hand,the cross-appeal was struck out. [Ufomba v. INEC(2017) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1582) 175 referred to.] (Pp.321, paras. A-E; 323, B-F)

11.On Non-justiciability of internal affairs of politicalparty and jurisdiction of court to entertain casesdealing with internal affairs of political party –

A political party, being a voluntary organizationor association, disputes over its internal affairsis non-justiciable and a court has no jurisdictionto entertain them, unless such power is expresslyconferred on it by statute, or the commission of acrime is imputed, or there is a claim for damages forbreach of the personal contractual right of a person.The practice of the court is not to run associations(corporations and unincorporated associations) forthe members. It leaves the members to run theirassociation. [Onuoha v. Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR244; Amaechi v. INEC (2007) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1040)504; Abdulkadir v. Mamman (2003) 14 NWLR (Pt.839) 1 referred to.] (Pp. 325-326, paras. H-B)

12.On Jurisdiction of court to entertain cases dealingwith internal affairs of voluntary associations –

The practice of the court is not to run associations(corporations and unincorporated associations)for members. The principle underlying this law isthat voluntary associations or organizations areinternally run by majority of the members and that,therefore, disputes which arise within them must beresolved by the majority decision of their members.This is the so called majority rule otherwise known as the rule in Foss v. Harbottle (1843) 2 Hare 461, thedecision in which it was first articulated. [Abubakarv. Smith (1973) 6 SC 31 referred to.] (Pp. 326, paras.G-H; 327, paras. C-D)

13.On Nature of political party and bindingness of itsrules, regulations, guidelines and constitution onmembers –

A political party is like a club, a voluntaryassociation. It has its rules, regulations, guidelinesand constitution. Members join of their own freewill. By joining, they have freely given their consentto be bound by its rules, regulations, guidelinesand constitution. These rules must be obeyed byall members of the party, as the party’s decision isfinal over its own affairs. [Onuoha v. Okafor (1983)2 SCNLR 244; Agi v. P.D.P. (2017) 17 NWLR (Pt.1595) 386; Ufomba v. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (Pt.1582) 175 referred to.] (Pp. 320-321, paras. G-A)

14.On Finality of a political party’s decision over itsdomestic or internal affairs –

Members of a party would do w ell to understandand appreciate the finality of a party’s decisionover its domestic or internal affairs. The courtwould only interfere where the party has violatedits own rules. In the instant case, the focus was onthe Guidelines issued by a political party regardingcongresses to fill executive internal leadershippositions. Issue of leadership and/or membership ofa political party, is an internal or domestic affairsof the party, which is within the political party’sjurisdiction and is indeed “No-Go” area for courts,as they lack jurisdiction to delve into such affairs ormatters. The court’s jurisdiction is ousted, becausesuch subject matter is non-justiciable. [Onuoha v.Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; Agi v. P.D.P. (2017) 17NWLR (Pt. 1595) 386; Ufomba v. INEC (2017) 13NWLR (Pt. 1582) 175 referred to.] (P. 321, paras.A-C)

15.On Whether a member of a voluntary organization cansue for breach of internal constitution and regulationsof the organization –

A member of a voluntary organization cannotsue for breach of the internal constitution andregulations of the organization in the internalaffairs of the organization. The doctrine of ultravires has no application in the internal affairsof a voluntary association of individuals. In theinstant case, the decision of the National WorkingCommittee of the appellant to hold Ward congressesfor general purposes in Rivers State in future couldnot be challenged in court as being contrary tothe appellant’s constitution or on any ground. Inany case, the respondents did not even show thatthe future congresses would be in violation of the1 st respondent’s constitution and rules. In the lightof the foregoing, the instant cross-appeal was non-justiciable. [Abubakar v. Smith (1973) 6 SC 31;Onuoha v. Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; P.D.P. v.Sylva (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1316) 85; Abdulkadir v.Mamman (2003) 14 NWLR (Pt. 839) 1 referred to.](P. 328, paras. B-E)

16.On Meanings of and distinction between “justiciable”and “non-justiciable” –

“ Justiciable” means a case or dispute properlybrought before a court of justice capable of beingdisposed of properly. When a matter is “non-justiciable”, it means that a court cannot hear it.The court has no jurisdiction to look into it. Thesubject matter of the instant cross-appeal wasnon-justiciable, and the end result was that thecross-appeal was accordingly struck out. [Ufombav. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1582) 175; Onuohav. Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244 ; P.D.P. v. Sylva(2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1316) 85 referred to.] (P. 321,paras.C-E)

Ni gerian Cases Referred to in the Judgment:

A.N.P.P. v. Goni (2012) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1296) 147

A.P.C. v. Lere (2020) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1705) 254

A.P.C. v. Moses CA/PH/244/2020

A.P.C. v. Uduji (2020) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1709) 51

A.P.C. v. Umah (2021) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1785) 586

A.P.C. v. Umar (2019) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1675) 564

Abdulkadir v. Mamman (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 839) 1

Abubakar v. Smith (1973) 6 SC 31

Adegoke Motors Ltd. v. Adesanya (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 109) 250

Agi v. P.D.P. (2017) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1595) 386

Akinlade v. INEC (2020) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1754) 439

Amaechi v. INEC (2007) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1040) 504

Anyah v. Iyayi (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt. 365) 290

Dalhatu v. Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 843) 310

Izeze v. INEC (2018) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1629) 110

Nyako v. A.S.H.A. (2017) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1562) 347

Obasi Bros. Co. Ltd. v. M.B.A.S. Ltd. (2005) 9 NWLR (Pt.929) 117

Obi v. Moses CA/PH/122/2020 (Unreported)

Okafor v. Nnaife (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt. 64) 129

Okechukwu v. INEC (2014) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1436) 255

Onuoha v. Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244

Osakue v. F.C.E. (Technical) Asaba (2010) 10 NWLR (Pt.1201) 1

P.D.P. v. INEC (2018) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1634) 533

P.D.P. v. Sylva (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1316) 85

Ufomba v. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1582) 175

Umah v. APC (2019) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1666) 427

Yaki v. Bagudu (2015) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1491) 288

Foreign Cases Referred to in the Judgment:

Foss v. Harbottle (1843) 2 Hare 461

McDonghall v. Gardiner (1875) CH.D 13

Mechanical Engineers v. Cane (1961) A.C. 696

Union of India v. Dhanwanti Devi (1996) 6 SCC 44

Niger ian Statutes Referred to in the Judgment:

Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended bythe 4th Alteration Act, 2017), Ss. 221, 285(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(14)(a) –

Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), Ss. 87(4)(b)(i)(ii), (c)(i)(ii)and

Book Referred to in the Judgment:

All Progressive Congress Constitution (as amended) Ss. 12(2)(5)(7)(12) 20(1)

Appeal:

These were an appeal and a cross-appeal against the judgmentof the Court of Appeal which upheld the 1st – 10th respondents’ noticeof preliminary objection and struck out the appellant’s appeal forwant of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision,allowed the appeal and struck out the cross-appeal.

History of the Case:

Supreme Court:

Names of Justices that sat on the appeal: Amina AdamuAugie, J.S.C. (Presided and Read the Leading Judgment);Adamu Jauro, J.S.C.; Samuel Chukwudumebi Oseji,J.S.C.; Tijjani Abubakar, J.S.C.; Emmanuel AkomayeAgim, J.S.C.

Appeal No.: SC/CV/29/2021

Date of Judgment: Friday, 5th March 2021

Names of Counsel: Chief Afolabi Fashanu, SAN andTuduru U. Ede, SAN (with them, Chief E. N. Ebete, Esq.;C. W. Jerome, Esq. and M. S. Ibrahim, Esq.) – for theAppellant/Cross-Respondent

H. A. Bello, Esq. (with him, K. P. Luke, Esq. and O. R.Umejuru, Esq.) – for the 1 st – 10 th Respondents/CrossAppellants

Obinna Ajoku, Esq. – for the 11 th Respondent

Court of Appeal:

Division of the Court of Appeal from which the appealwas brought: Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt

Names of Jus tices that sat on the appeal: Peter OlabasiIge, J.C.A. (Presided and Read the Leading Judgment));Yargata Byenchit Nimpar, J.C.A.; Mohammed Baba Idris,J.C.A.

Appeal No.: CA/PH/244/2020

Date of Judgment: Tuesday, 29th December 2020

Names of Counsel: Tuderu U. Ude, SAN (with him, C. W.Jerome, Esq.; M. S. Ibrahim, Esq.; Sheriff Adukke, Esq.and Aisha Ibrahim, Esq.) – for the Appellant

H. A. Bello, Esq. (with him, F. C..Nwafor, Esq. and AminaMarafa, Esq.) – for the Respondents

High Court:

Name of the High Court: High Court of Rivers State, PortHarcourt

Name of the Judge: Omeriji, J.

Suit No.: PHC/4634/2019

Date of Judgment: Tuesday, 9th June 2020

Names of Counsel: Henry Bello, Esq. (with him, C. D.Unachukwu, Esq.; N. O. Uduma, Esq.; F. E. Nwafor,Esq.; I. T. Herbert, Esq.; T. T. Awuha, Esq. and L. T.Mieyebo, Esq.) – for the Claimant

Chief E. N. Ebere, Esq. (with him, C. W. Jerome, Esq.;G. C. Chinde, Esq.; B. E. Enyi, Esq.; O. C. Oyiba, Esq.;K. U. Igbaki, T. I. Iguma, Esq.; L. G. Jemila, Esq.; B.Eloolo, Esq.; H. Okwuku and Loveday Obari, Esq.) – forthe Defendants

Counsel:

Chief Afolabi Fashanu, SAN and Tuduru U. Ede, SAN (withthem, Chief E. N. Ebete, Esq.; C. W. Jerome, Esq. and M. S.Ibrahim, Esq.) – for the Appellant/Cross-Respondent

H. A. Bello, Esq. (with him, K. P. Luke, Esq. and O. R. Umejuru,Esq.) – for the 1 st – 10 th Respondents/Cross Appellants

Obinna Ajoku, Esq. – for the 11 th Respondent

AUGIE, J.S.C. (Delivering the Leading Judgment): This is yetanother appeal dealing with the infighting between some membersof the appellant over its Party Congresses in Rivers State.

In May 2018, twenty-three of them filed suit No. BHC/78/2018- Ibrahim Umah & 22 Ors v. APC, at the High Court of Rivers State,Port Harcourt, wherein they sought a number of reliefs, including:

1.A declaration that the applicants are entitled toparticipate in the APC Ward Congress having paid therequisite nomination fees.

In his judgment of 10/10/2018, the learned trial Judge, C.Nwogu, J., held that APC “consented to judgment in favour ofthe applicants”. He granted all the reliefs sought, and specificallyordered as follows:

8.A declaration be and is hereby made that all thePrimaries conducted by the respondent (APC) inRivers State for the Governorship, Senate, Houseof Representatives, State House of Assembly and/orwhatever is done, howsoever done in conjunction withor with the participation of all persons elected at theWard, Local Government and State Congresses held byAPC in Rivers State, all for the 2019 General Electionsbased on the Congresses conducted on May 12th, 19th,20th and 21st, 2018, including the election of the wardexecutives, Local Government Executives and StateExecutives of the respondent (APC) in Rivers State — – are null, void and of no effect whatsoever and arehereby set aside, all being done during the pendency ofthis suit.

In appeal No. CA/PH/461/2018 – A.P.C. v. Ibrahim Umah &22 Ors. (2021) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1785) 586.filed by APC at the Courtof Appeal, the respondents filed a motion to strike out the noticeof appeal because, being a consent judgment, leave.ought to besought for and obtained before filing the appeal. In its ruling of12/12/2018, the Court of Appeal struck out the appeal. This ledto appeal No. SC.1333/2018 – APC v. Ibrahim Umar & 22 Ors,wherein the respondents argued that it was a pre-election matter. Inits judgment of 8/3/2019, this Court, per Sanusi, J.S.C, held that –

The exercise involved in the congresses covers orincludes activities, which are or should be donepreparatory to an election, be it for the selection ofofficers to be members of the executive of the partyor as processes to elect or to prepare and qualify thoseelected at the congresses to ultimately vie for elective offices to represent the party in the Legislature atLocal Government, State or at Federal level. Suchexercises are pre-election exercise or matter to whichthe provisions of section 285(14) squarely applies – -The preliminary objection filed and argued by learnedcounsel for the respondents is adjudged meritorious- – The appeal is incompetent and is, therefore,accordingly.struck out.

In December 2019, APC invited all its members in Rivers State,who were interested in participating in Congresses to fill positionsat the Wards, Local Government and State, to obtain nominationForms. That is when the first set of respondents instituted the actionthat led to this appeal. In Suit No. PH/4634/2019 filed at the HighCourt of Rivers State, Port Harcourt, they claimed the followingreliefs –

1.Declaration that sequel to the judgments of the HighCourt of Rivers State in BHC/78/2018: Ibrahim Umah& 22 Ors. v. APC, Court of Appeal in SC.1333/2018,(2019) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1666) 427: APC v. Umah & 22Ors., and Supreme Court in SC.1333/2018,.(2021) 10NWLR (Pt. 1785) 586: APC v. Umah & 22 Ors., it isonly the claimants and all members of the 1st defendant,who paid for the nomination forms for the May 5, 2018ward congresses of the 1st defendant in Rivers Statethat are entitled and qualified to participate in the wardcongresses in Rivers State that is yet to be conducted.

2.A declaration.that the payments of the requisitenomination fees made by the claimants for the APCcongresses is still valid and remains valid for any futurecongress to be held by the 1st defendant since no validcongress have been conducted by the 1st defendant.

3· A declaration that the request by the defendants forthe claimants to make payments for the purchase offresh nomination forms for participating in the wardcongress that was scheduled for 21st December, 2019or any other date in Rivers State is null and void.

4· A mandatory order commanding the defendants toforthwith unconditionally issue nomination forms tothe claimants and only those other members of the 1st defendant, who paid for the May 5, 2018 WardCongresses in Rivers State, for participating in the 1stdefendants congresses yet to be conducted in RiversState to the exclusion of all other members of the 1stdefendant, who did not pay before May 5, 2018.

5· A Perpetual Order restraining the defendants fromdemanding for fresh nomination fees for participationin the 1st defendant’s ward, Local Government and/orState Congress/Primaries election conducted with theexclusion of the claimants.

6.A perpetual order restraining the defendants fromrecognizing or accepting any result of Ward, LocalGovernment and/or State Congress/Primaries electionconducted with exclusion of the claimants.

7· And for such Order(s) as the Honourable Court maydeem fit to make.

They presented three questions to the trial court for determination:

1.Whether having made requisite payments for thenomination forms and in consideration of the courtsjudgment in suit nos. BHC/78/2018, Appeal No CA/PH/461/2018 and SC.1333/2018, the claimants are notentitled to be given nomination forms to participate inthe ward congress of the 1st defendant to the exclusionof all others?

2.Whether the defendants are entitled to payment of freshnomination fees for the ward congresses in RiversState that was scheduled for 21st December, 2019 orany other date?

3· Considering the courts judgment in suit nos.BHC/78/2018, Appeal No. CA/PH/461/2018, SC.1333/2018, and the provisions of section 20(1) ofthe APC Constitution 2014 (as amended), whetherthe defendants can exclude the claimants fromparticipating in the said ward congress?

Upon being served, the defendants, including the appellant,filed a motion praying the court for “an order striking out theoriginating summons for being incompetent and for lack ofjurisdiction”, on the ground inter alia that “the subject matter ofthis Suit being domestic and internal affairs of a political partyare not justiciable in law court”. The preliminary objection and the main suit were heard together. After the adoption of writtenaddresses, the learned trial Judge, Omereji, J.,.delivered hisjudgment on 9/6/2020, wherein he held:

The later decisions of the Supreme Court cited bylearned counsel for the claimants has shown clearlythat this court has the jurisdictional competence toentertain this suit filed by the claimants since it relatesto the breach of the defendants/applicants Constitutionand Guidelines – – – Accordingly, I hereby dismiss thepreliminary objection of the defendants as.lackingin merit and hold that this court has jurisdiction toentertain and determine this suit filed by the claimantsand I so hold.

As to the substantive matter, he concluded his judgment asfollows:

From what I have stated in this judgment, the claimantshave proved that the questions in the originatingsummons should be answered in the positive and I sohold. Accordingly, I hereby grant all the reliefs nos.1to 6 on the originating summons.

In appeal CA/PH/244/2020 – APC & Anor v. Dele Moses & 9Ors, filed at the Court of Appeal, the first set of respondents raiseda notice of preliminary objection argued in their brief of argument:

“This appeal has become statute barred due to effluxionof time; that the Court of Appeal lacks jurisdiction toentertain this appeal; and shall pray this court to strikeout this appeal” – The grounds for the objection are:

This appeal is a pre-election matter within theambit of the decision of the Supreme Court inAPC v. Umar (2019) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1675) 564at 575 paragraphs G-H and the recent ruling ofthe Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division of22/7/2020 in Appeal No. CA/PH/122M/2020:Okirigwe Jason Obi & Anor v. Dele Moses &(i)11 Ors. (Unreported)

Appeal No. CA/PH/244/2020 was filed on10/6/2020 and by the provisions of section285(12) Constitution of Federal Republic ofNigeria 1999 (as amended) and the judgment(ii)of the Supreme Court in Okechukwu v. INEC

(2014) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1436) 255 at 285, the60 days prescribed.time by Section 285(12)Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended by the 4th Alteration Act, 2017),for the hearing and determination of the appealelapsed on 8/8/2020.

There is no provision for enlargement of timefixed by the Constitution and the provisions ofthe Rules of Court for departure from its Rulescannot be invoked in a pre-election matter.A.N.P.P. v. Goni (2012) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1296)147 at 182: Nyako v. Adamawa State House of(iii)Assembly (2017) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1562) 347.

The jurisdiction of the court is donated byStatute and not by the court itself. This courtcannot extend or expand the time assignedor stipulated by the constitution for the(iv)performance of an act.

Appeal No. CA/PH/244/2020 has becomestatute-barred and this court lost its jurisdiction(v)to determine this appeal on 8/8/2020..

Appeal No. CA/PH/244/2020 has become(vi)academic and of no practical value.

In its judgment of 29/12/2020, the Court of Appeal held asfollows –

The facts of APC v. Uduji (2020) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1709) 51are quite different – – There is nothing in the said A.P.C.v. Uduji (supra) derogating from the comprehensivedefinition of pre-election in APC v. Umar (supra)- – This appeal having emanated from a pre-electionmatter ought to have been disposed off within 60 dayspursuant to section 285(12) of the Constitution of theFederal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Thiscourt has lost jurisdiction to adjudicate on the appealherein.

But it proceeded to consider the main appeal, and concludedthat:

Since there was no appeal against the judgment inPHC/3098/2019, it is res judicata and the lower courthas no jurisdiction to deal with the subject matter of this suit. The issues raised are resolved in appellants’favour. Order is hereby made striking out the suit ofthe respondents viz: PHC/4634/2019: Dele Moses &Ors. v. A.P.C. & Anor. However, having found thatthis court has lost jurisdiction to adjudicate on theappeal, since it emanated from a pre-election matterthat ought to be determined within 60 days from thedate of judgment of lower court, the appellants’ appealis hereby struck out for want of jurisdiction.

Still dissatisfied, the appellant filed an appeal in this courtagainst:

The part/portion of the decision of the Court ofAppeal, which upheld the 1st – 10th respondents’ noticeof preliminary objection and struck out the appellant’sappeal on the basis that same was caught up by theprovisions of section 285 of the 1999 Constitution(as amended).

The notice of appeal contains seven.grounds of appeal, and inits brief of argument, the appellant formulated the following issues–

1) Whether the Court of Appeal was correct in holdingthat appeal No. CA/PH/244/2020 at the Court ofAppeal was a pre-election matter within the meaningof Section 285(14) (a)-(c) of the Constitution of theF.R.N, 1999 (as altered) and subject to section 285(8-12) of the Constitution?

2) Whether the Court of Appeal was wrong in relying onAPC v. Umar & Ors. (2019) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1675) 564in holding that appeal No. CA/PH/244/2020 ought tohave been heard and determined within 60 days?

The first set of respondents adopted the two issues formulatedby the appellant in their brief of argument. The eleventh respondentadopted “appellant’s issue.1 in resolution of the appeal”, in hisbrief.

The eleventh respondent has a point that issue 1 is sufficient toresolve this appeal. Under issue 2, appellant invited this court “tooverrule its previous decision” in APC v. Umar (supra). However,the first Issue that must be resolved is whether the Court of Appealis right that the action filed at the trial court is a pre-election matter.

The appellant proffered arguments/submissions on this issuefrom pages 5-28 of his brief, and it is not necessary to go into details. The appellant’s position is that the Court of Appeal waswrong to hold that suit No. PHC/4634/2019 and appeal No. CA/PH/244/2020, were pre-election matters and strike out its appeal onthat ground. It urged this court to once again interpret the provisionsof Section 285(14)(a) – of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),which says:

For the purpose of this section “pre-election matter”means any suit by:

An aspirant, who complains that any of theprovisions of the Electoral Act or any Act ofthe National Assembly regulating the conductof primaries of political parties and theprovisions of the guidelines of a political partyfor the conduct of party primaries, has not beencomplied with by a political party in respect ofthe selection or nomination of candidates for(a)an election.

An aspirant challenging the decisions oractivities of the Independent NationalElectoral Commission [INEC] in respect of hisparticipation in an election or who complainsthat the provisions of the Electoral Act or anyelections in Nigeria has not been compliedwith by INEC in respect of the selection ornomination of candidates and participation in(b)an election; and

A political party challenging the actions,decisions or activities of INEC disqualifyingcandidates from participating in an election ora complaint that the provisions of the ElectoralAct or any applicable law has not been compliedwith by INEC in respect of the nomination ofcandidates of political parties for an election,timetable for an election, registration of votersand other activities of the Commission in(c)respect of preparation for an election.

Then it cited a number of authorities, including the recentdecisions of this court in A.P.C. v. Lere (2020) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1705)254 and Akinlade v. INEC (2020) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1754) 439, on thedefinition of “means”, “pre-election”, “political party”, “aspirant”,

“primaries, to buttress its position that the said section 285(14)does not apply in this case.

It cited Okafor v. Nnaife (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt. 64) 129, AdegokeMotors Ltd. v. Adesanya & Anor (1989) LPELR-94 (SC); (1989) 3NWLR (Pt. 109) 250, Izeze v. INEC (2018) LPELR-4428460 (SC),(2018) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1629) 110,.on the settled principle of the lawthat “a case is only an authority for what it decides”, and submittedthat the case of APC v. Umar (supra), which the Court of Appealrelied upon:

“Is totally irrelevant and inapplicable to the instantappeal, both in pith and substance. Indeed, the fact thatinduced the decision in APC v. Umar (supra), are noton all fours with the facts leading to this appeal”.

It argued that the Court of Appeal did not appreciate thatthe facts and circumstances of A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), are totallydifferent from the facts of this case, and it distinguished the twocases, as follows:

This appeal focuses on the guidelines issued by apolitical party with respect to its intended ward, LocalGovernment and State Congresses to fill executiveinternal leadership positions in its Rivers State Chapter.But in A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), the Guideline of theparty was not in issue, rather the focal point was theplaintiffs’ contention that having made the necessarypayments, they were entitled to be given the necessarynomination forms to participate at the congresses ofthe party.

  • In this appeal, there is no election in sight; the closestelection being in 2023, INEC has not and cannot issueany guidelines at this stage for a 2023 General Election,in light of the clear provisions of sections 76(1), (2),116(1), (2), 132(1) and 178(1) & of the 1999Constitution. Thus, in this case, there is no possibilityof an immediate General Election. However, in A.P.C.v. Umar (supra), the 2019 General Election was insight. Thus, the necessity for the Party to put intoplace elected State officers, with a view to preparingto participate in the 2019 General Election..
  • In the suit leading to this appeal, the 1st – 10threspondents challenged the guidelines issued for the holding of the ward congress, which has not been heldtill date. So, the said suit is a challenge to the guidelinesissued in respect of a political party’s ward congress.Whereas, in APC. v. Umar (supra), Ward Congresseshad been conducted and the plaintiffs complained thatthey ought to be allowed to participate in the saidWard Congress; and by not being given the necessarynomination Forms, they were denied their rights afterthe Party had collected money from them.

It submitted that Court of Appeal’s reliance on APC v. Umar(supra), without properly considering the facts that resulted in thedecision, led it to arrive at a perverse decision; that it assumedthat this Suit was a fallout of the decision of this court in A.P.C.v. Umar (supra), which is wrong, because orders made in suit No.BHC/78/2018, were specifically with respect to the Ward, LocalGovernment and State Congresses it conducted in 2018, and alsoin respect of the Primaries conducted for the Governorship, Senate,House of Representatives and State House of Assembly; that theWard Congresses for 2019, was simply to choose its executives,therefore, it cannot be said that this appeal is a fallout of the saiddecision in suit No. BHC/8/2018.

Furthermore, that it called on the Court of Appeal to be guidedby the more recent decisions of this court in A.P.C. v. Lere (supra)and A.P.C. v. Uduji (2020) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1709) 541, decided afterthe said case of APC v. Umar (supra), and later in time, and theCourt of Appeal, “regrettably and most inapplicably” said nothingabout A.P.C. v. Lere; that the definition of “pre-election” was thequestion before it; and that the term was aptly defined in the otherdecisions of this court.

It conceded that APC v. Umar defined it differently from thedefinition rendered in A.P.C. v. Lere (supra) and A.P.C. v. Uduji(supra), but it argued that faced with contradictory decisions of thiscourt, the Court of Appeal had a duty to be bound by the latterdecisions, and ought to have followed the more recent decisionsof this court, citing Osakue v. F.C.E. (Technical) Asaba (2010) 10NWLR (Pt. 1201) 1.

On their own part, the first set of respondents insist that the“plenitude and amplitude of the purport of a pre-election matterhas been authoritatively settled by this apex court per Sanusi, J.S.C,in the celebrated case of A.P.C. v. Umar (supra)”. They argued that Akinlade v. INEC (supra), cited by the appellant, is inapplicableto this case; that it is trite that “a case is an authority for what itdecides”,.and for an authority to be applicable to another case, thefacts of that case ought to be similar, citing P.D.P. v. INEC & Ors.(2018) LPELR-44373 (SC); (2018) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1634) 533.andthat the interpretation of section 285(14) in APC v. Umar, “gave lifeto the intendment of the Legislature, which never intended to shutout genuine aspirants from protecting a genuine right of action”..

Furthermore, that the appellant’s argument that the facts ofboth cases are not the same is “a distinction without a difference”,since facts of this case are on all fours with the facts in APC v.Umar, in that the suit that led to this appeal, was for “enforcementof the judgment in SC.1333/2019 between APC v. Ibrahim Umar &22 Ors.”.

They also argued that the party officials that would be electedat any congress of the appellant, will turn out to be delegates thatwill nominate candidates for primaries in the forthcoming elections;that executive officers elected at the congresses shall be in officefor the next 4 years and participate in the congresses contemplatedby section 87(4)(b) (ii), and of the Electoral Act,2010 (as amended) that is in pari materia with article 12(7), 12(12)& 12(5) of the APC Constitution; and that cannot be said to bespeculative.

They submitted that the definition of pre-election matter inA.P.C. v. Lere (supra), is not meant to exclude the broader meaningin APC v. Umar (supra), and there is no ratio or dictum in A.P.C.v. Lere (supra) that excludes the activities done for selection ofofficers to be members of the executive, from being a pre-electionmatter. They also made a distinction between the said two cases, asfollows:

In APC v. Lere (supra), the subject matter was theunlawful exclusion and substitution of the 1st appellantafter he participated and won the 2nd respondent’sprimaries, and the live issue before the court waswhether the matter had become statute barred. Whilein the case of A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), the live issuespresented before this court were –

.On time within which to hear and determinean appeal from the decision of a Court in pre-(i)election matters.

(ii)Whether time can be extended; and

(iii)On meaning of election and pre-election.

In APC v. Lere (supra), the issue of the meaning of pre-electionwas not raised and this court did not see the need to go into a subjectthat was not in issue. Whereas, in APC v. Umar (supra), the issue ofwhat amounts to a pre-election was raised and this court exercisedits jurisdiction to interpret the provisions of the said section 285(14)of the Constitution..

They submitted that the concept of pre-election in APCv. Umar is broad and holistic enough to encompass any activityor process undertaken by a political party prior to election for thepurpose of electing officers as its executive, who will then playkey roles in determining the outcome of its representatives in theelection, which brings this case within the purview of APC v. Umar(supra); that pursuant to Section 221 of the Constitution, the solepurpose of political parties is to present and fund candidates forelection; and that the appellant wrongly applied A.P.C. v. Lere(supra) to this case.

.The eleventh respondent also argued along the same lines thatthe interpretation of what amounts to pre-election matter in A.P.C.v. Umar “reflect the object and intention of the Legislature towardssection 285(14) of the CFRN”; that this case is a pre-electionmatter, which should be treated as such by this court; and that thiscourt should not in any way adhere to any invitation to vary ormove away from the clear interpretation of this Court in A.P.C. v.Umar (supra).

.He submitted that the appellant’s argument that congresses inthat case were targeted at the preparation of the general election,while this case is not in preparation of any general election is totallymisconceived since what matters is whether “there is any action orprocess embarked upon by a political party towards preparationof an election, be it Party Congresses, Party Primaries or generalelection”; that A.P.C. v. Umar and this case are similar and sharethe same facts and circumstances; and that the Court of Appealclearly stated that:

“The suit over which the present appeal emanate is afallout of the decision of the Supreme Court over suitNo. BHC/78/2018, CA/PH/4612018 and SC.1333/18.The Supreme Court has finally held in APC v. Umar – -that it is a pre-election matter, as can be seen from the profuse quotation of the decision of the apex court onwhat a pre-election matter means”.

On the cases of A.P.C. v. Lere (supra) and A.P.C. v. Uduji(supra), cited by the appellant, he submitted that the cases are nothelpful to the appellant “as it is trite that a case is authority forwhat it decides”, citing P.D.P. v. INEC & Ors. (supra); and that theimportance of facts cannot be overemphasized, as facts determinethe fate of any case, citing Obasi Bros. Co. Ltd. v. M.B.A.S. Ltd.(2005) 9 NWLR (Pt. 929) 117.

He insisted that the facts in A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), A.P.C. v.Lere (supra) and A.P.C. v. Uduji (supra) are not the same, and onthat note, he went on to distinguish APC v. Umar from A.P.C. v.Lere, as follows:

  • In A.P.C. v. Lere, the fact before the court was theunlawful exclusion of and substitution of the name ofthe 1st respondent by the 1st appellant after he has fullyparticipated in the 1st appellant’s primaries. It was onthat factual situation that this court stated what pre-election matter is. While the factual situation in A.P.Cv. Umar is nomination and election of Party Congressand this court, after applying the facts to the provisionof section 285(14) C.F.R.N, also held that it was a pre-election matter.
  • In A.P.C. v. Umar, the main cause of action borderedon party congresses, while that of A.P.C. v. Lere wason substitution of candidate after primaries have beenconducted.

It is his contention that the facts of the case in APC v. Umar(supra), are on all fours with this case, and he urged this court torely on it, in interpreting section 285(14) of the Constitution (asamended).

.The appellant filed reply briefs to the briefs filed by both setsof respondents, and I will refer to them, if and when, necessary.

.It is clear from the foregoing arguments/ submissions that thecrux of the issue in this appeal, is whether the Court of Appealwas right to rely upon the decision of this Court in APC v. Umar(supra), in arriving at its conclusion that the said Suit is a pre-election matter. As it turns out, though the appellant and both setsof respondents held divergent positions on the issue, they all laidemphasis on the elementary principle that “a case is an authority for what it decides”. The appellant cited Okafor v. Nn aife (supra),Adegoke Motors Ltd. v. Adesanya & Anor (supra) and Izeze v. INEC(supra), while the two sets of respondents cited P.D.P. v. INEC &Ors. (supra), in their briefs.

The position of the law, from the authorities cited and others,is that the doctrine of stare decisis is based on what is described as“ratio decidendi” [reason for deciding] of a judgment. This to say,it is the reason for which a particular Judgment has been deliveredthat forms the fulcrum for being followed in a subsequent decision.

.What remains in the judgment is described as obiter dictum- [something said in passing]; the opinion of the court upon whichno issue had been joined by the parties – see Adegoke Motors Ltd. v.Adesanya (supra), wherein this Court per Oputa, J.S.C, observed –

There is now a tendency among our lawyers, andsometimes among some of our Judges, to considerpronouncements made by Justices of the SupremeCourt in unnecessary isolation from the facts and thesurrounding circumstances of those particular casesin which those pronouncements were made. I think itought to be obvious by now, that it is the facts andcircumstances of any given case that frame the issuesfor decision in that particular case. Pronouncementsof our Justices, whether they are rationes decidendior obiter dicta must, therefore, be inextricably andintimately related to the facts of the given case. Citingthose pronouncements without relating them to thefacts that induced them will be citing them out oftheir proper context, for, without known facts, it isimpossible to know the law on those facts.

And PDP v. INEC & Ors. (supra), cited by both sets ofrespondents, wherein this court reminded counsel that “a case isauthority for what it decides. Relying on a case without relatingit to the facts that induced it, will amount to citing the case out ofproper context”. See also Okafor v. Nnaife (supra), wherein Oputa,J.S.C, very aptly stated:

Justice and fairness – – demand that the ratio of anycase should not be pulled in by the hair of the headand made willy nilly to apply to cases where thesurrounding circumstances are different.

There are numerous decisions of this court dealing with thisissue; yet, I came across an Indian authority that struck a chordwith me. India has a common law system. In Union of India v.Dhanwanti Devi (1996) 6 SCC 44, the Supreme Court of Indiaexplained as follows –

It is not everything said by a Judge, who givesjudgment that constitutes a precedent. The only thingin a Judge’s decision binding a party is the principleupon which the case is decided and for this reason, it isimportant to analyse a decision and isolate it from theratio decidendi – – What is of essence in the decision isits ratio and not every observation found therein; notwhat logically follows from the various observationsmade in the Judgment. Every Judgment must be readas applicable to the particular facts proved, since thegenerality of the expressions, which may be foundthere, is not intended to be exposition of the wholelaw. It would, therefore, be not profitable to extracta sentence here and there from the Judgment andto build upon it because the essence of the decisionis its ratio and not every observation found therein.The enunciation of the reason or principle on whicha decision before a court has been decided, is alonebinding between the parties to it, but it, is the abstractratio decidendi ascertained on a consideration ofthe Judgment in relation to the subject matter of thedecision, which alone has the force of law, and which,when it is clear what it was, is binding __ Therefore, inorder to understand and appreciate the binding force ofa decision, it is always necessary to see what the factsin the case in which the decision was given and whatwas the point, which had to be decided. No judgmentcan be read as if it is a statute. A word or a clause or asentence in the judgment cannot be regarded as a fullexposition of law.

In other words, in determining whether an earlier decisionqualifies as binding precedent, a Judgment cannot be read as ifit is a statute, and the Judge cannot just pick a sentence here andthere, then build upon it because the essence of the decision is itsratio decidendi; and not every observation, which is found in the judgment. Simply put, the law requires the Judge to chisel out thereason or rationale for a particular decision, and it is this reason,which has to be followed.

In this case, to find out whether the Court of Appeal wasright to rely upon the said decision of this court in A.P.C. v. Umar(supra), the trial court’s decision in suit No. BHC/78/2018, must beanalysed, to see what the facts were, and the point, which had to bedecided. In the said suit, the learned trial Judge, Nwogu, J., statedas follows:

On 11/5/2018, the respondent [APC], propelled bypower brazenly crude in nature, locked the premises ofthe Rivers State High Court Complex, Port Harcourtand massively destroyed and looted propertiesbelonging to Rivers State Judiciary with impunity,to prevent this court from delivering its ruling in thissuit. When the ruling was eventually delivered, anda restraining order was made against the respondent,the respondent went virile (sic) in the media, floutingtheir power to disobey the orders of this court and didindeed disobey the orders of the court on 11/5/2018.The court on 30/5/2018 also made a mandatory orderof injunction against the respondent and the respondentalso treated the orders of this court so made with abjectcontemptuous levity and carried on its restrainedactivities in defiance of the mandatory orders of courtso made. These attitude of the respondent in thismatter is a presage of evil omen to the democracy andrule of law in this country, an augury of the rule bymight. The judiciary has been so ridiculed and cajoledwith disdain by the respondent. It is trite that oncethere is suit pending on a subject matter before a courtof competent jurisdiction to the knowledge of bothparties, parties are bound to maintain the status quo andnot to do anything that will destroy the res – – or renderthe suit a mockery trial of a special kind, pending thedetermination of the substantive suit – The court madepositive restraining orders in this suit. The respondenthave neglected this principle of rule of law and duringthe pendency of this matter, gone ahead to take actionsthat will render the eventual orders of this court a farce and a futile exercise. [It] went ahead to conduct itsWard, Local Government and State.Congresses on 12th,19th, 20th and 21st days of May 2018. The respondentfurther went ahead to screen/nominate its candidatesand conducted its primaries for the Rivers State Houseof Assembly, Governorship of Rivers State, the Houseof Representatives Constituencies in Rivers Stateand Senate Constituencies in Rivers State, during thependency of this Suit. These actions of the respondentnegate the rule of law and undermine the judicialpowers.of this court in a challenging contemptuousmannerism. These acts of the respondent have shut outthe applicants unjustly, which negates the applicantscomplaint in this suit. Can this court, saddled withits judicial power, allow the respondent declareitself as “above the law”? The law still remains thelaw. Where there is a wrong, there is a remedy, asexpressed in the Latin maxim “ubi jus ibi remedium”.The Supreme Court has provided a remedy to meetsuch circumstances, which has left the position of theapplicants in the case, not hopeless in the face of theunwholesome act and overreaching misconduct of therespondent – – – The applicants have in their relief 7sought for consequential orders, as the circumstancesof the case may demand. The court has wide jurisdictionto make consequential orders and to grant reliefs as thecircumstances of the case demands – – – – I have studiedthe circumstances of this matter, the deserving justiceof this matter will warrant the making of consequentialorder(s) in line with the omnibus relief of theapplicants, which will accord with the spirit of fairnessand justice in this matter and address the unwholesomeand overreaching conducts of the respondent, whichconduct is an affront to the rule of law. Justice mustaddress the heart of the complaint towards mitigatingthe justice that brought about the complaint. If justicefails to address the injustice complained of, then thejustice becomes injustice in the cloak (pelisse) ofjustice. Justice according to the rule of law must beas high and towering as the mountain. The rule by might must be brought to rubbles by the rule of law.It is the sacred duty of this Court to make orders thatwill promote confidence in the Judiciary and peaceand good governance in the society as well as restorethe hope of the common man or the oppressed in thesociety.

At this point, he said a few things about petitions writtenagainst him to the National Judicial Council, and then concluded asfollows:

This court cannot fold its hands and close its eyes to thedishonourable acts or actions of the respondent [APC,Rivers State], in trying to use the court or its ministersas a Trojan Playground or battleground. Oh! Is theintegrity and honour of the legal profession surrenderedto the beck and call of lesser nobility? Have I chosento tread the shadow of the valley of death again in thismatter? Even if I do, I fear no evil. I have taken theJudicial Oath of Office to be pungent in defendingthe course of justice, both in the society at large andto maintain the integrity of the legal profession, whois the defender of the society in the administrationof justice. If I am left alone in this course, let it be.Honour and sanity is deserved in the legal profession- – – In the sum, I am satisfied that this application hasmerit. The applicants in their affidavit evidence lacedwith their counsel written address have fulfilled allthe conditions for the grant of the reliefs sought inthis application, the conduct of the primaries for theselection/nomination of candidates at the Congressesbeing contrary to Article 20(1) APC Constitution andManifesto 2014 (as amended), S. 87(9) Electoral Act2010 and APC guidelines for ward, Local GovernmentAreas and State Congresses Election, issued byAPC in 2018 – – All the questions formulated fordetermination are answered in the affirmative and allthe reliefs are granted. The consequential orders madeherein meets the justice of.this matter in line with therule of law, without which, the applicants will go homewith pyrrhic victory. The Application succeeds in itsentirety, I hereby make the following orders:

1.Applicants are entitled to participate in therespondent [APC] Ward Congress having paidthe requisite nomination fees.

2.A Declaration be and is hereby made that theexclusion of the applicants from participatingin the Ward Congress is unconstitutional, nulland void.

3.A Declaration be and is hereby made thatpurported Ward Congress held by therespondent [APC] on May 5, 2018 is null, voidand of no effect whatsoever and is hereby setaside.

4.A perpetual order of injunction be and ishereby made restraining the respondent [APC,]from conducting any Local Government AreaCongresses or further Congresses in RiversState based on the Ward Congress Electionpurportedly conducted on May 5, 2018.

5.A perpetual order of injunction be and is herebymade restraining the respondent [APC,] fromrecognizing or accepting any result of WardElection whatsoever arising from the purportedWard Congress of May 5,2018.

6.A declaration be and is hereby made that thepurported Ward and Local Government andState Congresses conducted by the respondent[APC] in Rivers State on May 12th, 19th, 20th, and21st 2018 respectively and anything or electiondone thereunder or pursuant thereto includingthe election of the Ward executives, LocalGovernment executives and State Executivesof the respondent [APC] in Rivers State andany other thing done in the like manner, allbased on the Congresses are null, void and ofno effect whatsoever and are hereby set aside.

7.A declaration be and is hereby made that allthe nomination by the respondent [APC] ofcandidates for the Rivers State Governorship,Senate, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly are null, void and of noeffect whatsoever and are hereby set aside,same being made during the pendency of thissuit.

8.A declaration be and is hereby made that allthe Primaries conducted by the respondent(APC) in Rivers State for the Governorship,Senate, House of Representatives, StateHouse of Assembly and/or whatever is done,howsoever done in conjunction with or with theparticipation of all persons elected at the Ward,Local Government and State Congresses heldby APC in Rivers State, all for the 2019 GeneralElections based on the Congresses conductedon May 12th, 19th, 20th and 21st, 2018, includingthe election of the Ward Executives, LocalGovernment Executives and State Executivesof the respondent (APC) in Rivers State andany other thing done in the like manner by anyother person(s) in this suit in APC, Rivers Stateare null, void and of no effect whatsoever andare hereby set aside, all being done during thependency of this suit.

That is the judgment of the trial court in suit BHC/78/2018and it is obvious that its reason for deciding that case, is not asclear-cut as the respondents in this appeal, would want this court tobelieve.

To be clear, the decision of the trial court in that suit was neverconsidered on its merits, either at the Court of Appeal or this court.Appeal CA/PH/461/2018 filed at the Court of Appeal was struckout, because appellants did not seek leave.of court to file the appeal,and Appeal No. SC.1333/2018: A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), filed in thiscourt, was also struck out on the ground that it was a pre-electionmatter.

The question in this appeal is whether the facts of that case arethe same or similar to this case, to warrant the same treatment, basedon the decision of this court in the said A.P.C. v. Umar (supra)..Theappellant’s viewpoint is that the facts of this case are different.

To cut to the chase, I must say that I agree with the appellant. Itis clear from the decision of the trial court in suit No. BHC/78/2018
that the party congresses, which was the subject matter of the suit,were entwined with primaries conducted by APC in preparation forthe general election, so one could not be extricated from the other.

There was no dividing line between the said party congressesand APC’s preparation for the 2019 General Elections. What ismore, the trial court made it abundantly clear that its reason fordeciding, and for making the consequential orders nullifying notjust the said party congresses, but also the primaries carried out bythe party, was because they were conducted during the pendencyof the suit. I will repeat what the trial Court said. It categoricallystated that –

It is trite law that once there is a suit pending on asubject matter before a court of competent jurisdictionto the knowledge of both parties, parties are bound tomaintain the status quo and not to do anything that willdestroy the res in the matter or render the suit a mockerytrial of a special kind, pending the determination of thesubstantive suit – – The court made positive restrainingorders in this suit. The respondent have neglected thisprinciple of rule of law and during the pendency ofthis matter, gone ahead to take actions that will renderthe eventual orders of this Court a farce and a futileexercise. The respondent went ahead to conduct itsWard, Local Government and State Congresses on 12th,19th, 20th and 21st days of May 2018. The respondentfurther went ahead to screen/nominate its candidatesand conducted its primaries for the Rivers State Houseof Assembly, Governorship of Rivers State, the Houseof Representatives Constituencies in Rivers Stateand Senate Constituencies in Rivers State, during thependency of this suit.

So, in A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), the action had already beeninstituted, before APC conducted the congresses and primaries tochoose the candidates for the 2019 general election that was roundthe corner.

In this case, the first set of respondents submitted that theParty Congresses would eventually lead to an election; and thatthe “party officials that would be elected at any Congress – – – willturn out to be delegates that would nominate candidates for PartyPrimaries in the forthcoming General Elections”. The appellant

argued in its reply brief to their brief that their use of the words“eventual” and “would”, underscores its position that their suitcannot be in the same category with A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), becauseit is speculative.

I agree. The situation in APC v. Umar (supra) is not the same,and it cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be compared with thesituation in this case, where there is no general election in sight.

It is trite law that every case is determined on its own merits.The decision of this court in APC v. Umar (supra), must be viewedwithin the peculiar circumstances of that case. It is not enoughfor a Party to say that this court has made pronouncement in onecase, therefore, it will automatically become a precedent in anothercase. No, the doctrine of precedent or stare decisis is not appliedin vacuo; it must be done in context. Thus, the facts of both casesmust either be the same or similar before the decision in an earliercase can be used in a later case – Yaki v. Bagudu (2015) 18 NWLR(Pt. 1491) 288 SC.

In the circumstances of this case, I will answer the question inthe negative. The facts of this case are not the same as the facts ofthe case in A.P.C. v. Umar (supra), to warrant the same treatment.The suit that led to this appeal is certainly not a pre-election matter.

Section 285(14) – of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),which defines what a pre-election matter is, speaks of aspirants,who complain about the conduct of party primaries in respect of the“selection or nomination of candidates for an election”; aspirants,who challenge “actions, decisions or activities” of INEC, inrespect of their participation in an election; and political parties thatchallenge “actions, decisions or activities” of INEC, “in respect ofnominations of candidates for an election, timetable for an election,registration of voters and other activities in respect of preparationfor an election”. As the appellant put it in its brief, this definition“does not admit of congresses that max or may not’ ‘one day oneday’ lead to an election”..

In suit No. PH/4634/2019, filed by the first set of respondents,they did not claim to be aspirants complaining about the conductof any primaries or challenging actions, decisions or activitiesof INEC. They challenged guidelines issued for the conduct ofCongresses, and they claimed declaratory reliefs inter alia that theyare entitled to participate in the Ward Congresses “that is yet to beconducted”.

There has to be a point at which political parties will leave thecourts out of their domestic wrangles or internal leadership tussles.To widen the net and allow the courts to be seen as an integral partof the political struggle for power, is not in the interest of anyone.

In the circumstances of this case, the suit filed at the trial courtis not a pre-election matter. The appeal is meritorious it succeedsand it is allowed. The decision of the Court of Appeal is set aside.

Cross-Appeal

The cross appellants, who instituted the said suit at the trialcourt, filed a notice of cross-appeal challenging that part of thedecision of the Court of Appeal where it determined the meritsof the appeal before it, “after striking out the appeal for want ofjurisdiction”.

However, the decision of this court in the substantive appeal,has reverberating effects, one of which is that this cross-appeal hasno legs to stand on, because the suit filed at the trial court, is not apre-election matter. It touches on the domestic or internal affairs ofa political party, which is within the exclusive province of the party.In other words, a political party is supreme over its own affairs,and a court of law has no jurisdiction to question the exercise of itsdiscretion, one way or the other – see Dalhatu v. Turaki (2003) 15NWLR (Pt. 843) 310, wherein this court per Tobi, J.S.C, explainedthat:

One basic rationale behind this principle of law is thatsince persons have freely given their consent to bebound by the rules and regulations of a political Party,they should be left alone to be governed by such rulesand regulations. Once persons have freely mortgagedtheir consciences to a situation, Courts of law shouldnot interfere.

See also Onuoha v. Okafor (1983) 14 NSCC 494 and Agi v. P.D.P.(2017) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1595) 386, wherein Rhodes-Vivour, J.S.C,observed that:

A party is like a club, a voluntary association. It hasits rules, regulations, guidelines and constitution.Members join – – of their own free will. By joining,they have freely given their consent to be bound by[its] rules, regulations, guidelines and constitution – -These rules – – must be obeyed by all members of theparty, as the party’s decision is final over its own affairs.

Members of a party would do well to understand andappreciate the finality of a party’s decision over itsdomestic or internal affairs. The court would onlyinterfere where the party has violated its own rules.

In this case, the focus is on the Guidelines issued by a politicalparty regarding congresses to fill executive internal leadershippositions, and it is settled that the issue of leadership and/ormembership of a political party, is an internal or domestic affair ofthe party, which is “within the political party’s jurisdiction and isindeed No-Go area for courts, as they lack jurisdiction to delve intosuch affairs or matters. The court’s jurisdiction is ousted, becausesuch subject matter is non-justiciable” – see Ufomba v. INEC (2017)13 NWLR (Pt. 1582) 175 SC.

“Justiciable”, means a case or dispute properly brought beforea court of justice capable of being disposed of properly – Ufombav. INEC (supra). When a matter is “non- justiciable”, it means thata court cannot hear it. The court has no jurisdiction to look into itOnuoha v. Okafor (supra), P.D.P. v. Sylva (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt.1316) 85.

The subject matter of this cross-appeal is non-justiciable, andthe end result is that the cross-appeal be and is hereby struck out.The parties in the main and cross appeal shall bear their own costs.

JAURO, J.S.C.: I had the opportunity of reading in draft the leadjudgment of my learned brother, Amina Adamu Augie, J.S.C. justdelivered. I am in agreement with the reasoning and the conclusioncontained therein on the main appeal and the cross appeal.

The issues raised in the instant appeal have been sufficientlydealt with by learned brother in the leading judgment just delivered.However, it is imperative to reiterate the position of the law onthe definition of a pre-election matter. In determining what a pre-election matter is, recourse must be made to the statutory definitionof the phrase “pre-election matter” as provided for under section285 (a – c) of the Constitution (supra).

Section 285 (a – c) of the Constitution (supra) provides asfollows:

“For the purpose of this section, “pre-election matter”means any suit by –

an aspirant who complains that any of theprovisions of the Electoral Act or any Act of theNational Assembly regulating the conduct ofprimaries of political parties and the provisionsof the guidelines of a political party for conductof party primaries has not been complied withby a political party in respect of the selection or(a)nomination of candidates for an election;

an aspirant challenging the actions, decisions oractivities of the Independent National ElectoralCommission in respect of his participation in anelection or who complains that the provisionsof the Electoral Act or any Act of the NationalAssembly regulating elections in Nigeria hasnot been complied with by the IndependentNational Electoral Commission in respect ofthe selection or nomination of candidates and(b)participation in an election; and

a political party challenging the actions,decisions or activities of the IndependentNational Electoral Commission disqualifyingits candidate from participating in an electionor a complaint that the provisions of theElectoral Act or any other applicable law hasnot been complied with by the IndependentNational Electoral Commission in respectof the nomination of candidates of politicalparties for an election, timetable for an election,registration of voters and other activities of theCommission in respect of preparation for an(c)election.”

From the statutory definition of pre-election provided above, Iam persuaded to disagree with counsel for the respondents that theaction culminating into the instant appeal is a pre-election matter.As rightly noted by my learned brother in the lead judgment, thefacts of this case are quite distinct from the facts of the case of APCv. Umar.

By virtue of the overriding effect of the Constitution, this courtdoes not have the vires to expand, as the respondent counsel wantsit to, the definition and scope of pre-election matter beyond section 285(14) of the constitution (supra). This can only be done if thesaid section is amended but until then, every judicial interpretationof the term pre-election matter ought to be considered within theparameters of section 285(14) of the Constitution (supra).

Cross Appeal

This court does not have the jurisdictional competence toventure into the determination of the suit culminating into the cross-appeal. The cross-appeal filed by the respondents/cross appellantsis centered on issues bordering on operations of the domestic andinternal affairs of the political party which is within the control ofthe party. This court in a legion of judicial authorities has reiteratedits stance on the non-justiciability of actions predicated on conductof domestic and internal affairs of political parties. This court,per Sanusi, J.S.C in the case of Ufomba v. INEC & Ors. (2017)LPELR-42079 (SC); (2017) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1582) … held that:

“The issue now is, are claims against the nominationof members or leaders of the political party justifiable?My simple answer to that question is a capital “No”.The law is trite that courts jurisdiction is ousted inmatters dealing with internal affairs or resolution of apolitical party regarding nomination or leadership ofthat political party as in this instant case.”

In conclusion, by reason of the above and of course the detailedreasons contained in the lead judgment of my learned brother, justdelivered, I too, hold that the appeal has merit and same is herebyallowed. On the other hand, the cross-appeal is hereby struck out.

OSEJI, J.S.C.: I had the advantage of reading in draft the leadjudgment just delivered by my learned brother Amina AdamuAugie, J.S.C. True to type my lord has exhaustively and adequatelyconsidered and addressed the issues in contention in the appealand I completely agree with the reasoning and conclusion that theappeal is unmeritorious. I have nothing extra to add.

Accordingly, I hold that the appeal lacks merit and I alsodismiss it.

The cross-appeal is also found to be non-justiciable and it isalso struck out accordingly.

I abide by the consequential orders made in the lead judgment.

ABUBAKAR, J.S.C.: My Lord and learned brother, Augie, JSCgranted me the privilege of reading in draft the leading judgmentprepared and rendered in this appeal. I am in full agreement with thereasoning and conclusion and adopt the judgment as mine, I havenothing extra to add. I abide by all consequential orders includingthe order on costs.

AGIM, J.S.C. I had a preview of the judgment delivered by mylearned brother, Lord Justice Amina Adamu Augie J.S.C. I agreewith the reasoning, conclusions and orders therein. It is trite lawthat where a particular word or phrase is defined in a statute, itsmeaning would be as so defined in the statute. No other meaningcan be given to the word or phrase outside its definition by thestatute. As held by this court in Anyah & Ors. v. Iyayi (1993) 9SCNJ 53; (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt. 365) 290.

“It is settled law that where a word or phrase hasbeen defined in an enactment that meaning must berestricted to the words so defined in the statute, thedefinition governs.”

Therefore, the word pre-election having been defined bysection 285(14) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic ofNigeria 1999 (the 1999 Constitution), no other meaning can begiven to it, except the one given to it by its definition in section285(14) of the 1999 Constitution.

The exact text of this provision is fully reproduced at pages 32to 33 of the lead judgment. The use of the limiting word “means” indefining a pre-election matter further limits its meaning to only thatlisted therein.

In view of the clear provisions of section 285(14) of the1999 Constitution, the suit at the trial court that led to this appealis not a pre-election matter because it was brought by a membersof a political party claiming inter alia that the political party onlythem the claimants and a” members of the appellant who paid fornomination forms for the cancelled May 5, 2018 ward congressesare entitled and qualified to participate ward congresses that wereyet to be conducted. The claimants are not aspirants in a Primaryelection of the party. Their action did not complain that the selectionor nomination of the party’s candidate for a general election didnot comply with the Electoral Act or its Electoral Guidelines.

Their action did not challenge the action of INEC in respect ofthe selection or nomination of the party’s candidate for a generalelection. The action is not brought by a political party challengingthe action of INEC disqualifying its candidate from participatingin a general election or that the decision or action of INEC inrespect of nomination of its candidate for an election, timetable foran election, registration of voters and other activities of INEC inrespect of an impending election is contrary to the Electoral Act orother laws.

Section 285(14) to by expressly listing the three typesof matters that constitute or mean a pre-election matter clearlyexcluded the matters not mentioned therein. The law is settled byan unending line of judicial decisions that where a statute expresslylists the items to which it applies, it excludes those not listed therein.This interpretative rule is often expressed in the maxim, the expressmention of certain things excludes those not mentioned.

So if section 285(14) had intended that actions concerning thefuture conduct of party congresses for any purpose should constitutepre-election matters, it would have stated so. Since such actions arenot listed in section 285(14) as pre-election matters, they are not.The suit leading to this appeal is not a pre-election matter.

The decision of this court in APC v. Umar (supra) is notapplicable to this case because the relevant facts of that case aredifferent from the relevant facts this case. The relevant facts inUmar’s case is that the action challenged the ward congresses toproduce electors in an impending primary election, which primaryelection held during the pendence of the action. In our instantcase, the relevant facts are that the members of the party whopaid for nomination forms to participate in the May 5, 2018 Wardcongresses have the exclusive right to participate in future wardcongresses and no other party member should be sold forms forparticipation in such future Ward congress. For the above reasonsand the more detailed ones in the lead judgment, I also allow thisappeal as meritorious.

Cross-Appeal

I also agree with the reasoning, conclusions and orders in thelead judgment concerning the cross-appeal.

The general law is that a political party, being a voluntaryorganization or association, disputes over its internal affairs arenon-justiciable and a court has no jurisdiction to entertain them.

Unless such power is expressly conferred on it by statute or thecommission of a crime is imputed or there is a claim for damagesfor breach of the personal contractual right of a person. As heldby the Supreme Court in the leading case of Onuoha v. Okafor(1983) 2 SCNLR 244 at 254 “the practice of the court is not to runassociations (corporations and unincorporated associations) for themembers. It leaves the members to run their association”. The courtfurther held per Aniagolu, J.S.C. thus “the issues raised on whetherthe various internal committee proceedings of the party wereregularly conducted and whether there was lapse in the observanceof the rules of natural justice are issues which the court will gointo after it has decided that the matter is one in respect of whichit will exercise jurisdiction. In my view, this is not a matter whichthe High Court ought to have assumed jurisdiction. It would havebeen different if the appellant had sued for a breach of contractbetween himself and the party, claiming damages for breach ofcontract.” In Amaechi v. INEC (2007) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1040) 504 thiscourt held that the expulsion of a member of a political party asa disciplinary measure remains an intra party affair and the courtcannot inquire into it. In Abdulkadir & Anor v. Mamman & Ors.(2003) LPELR – 10287 (CA); (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 839) 1, thiscourt held concerning questions and reliefs similar to the ones inour present case, thusly

“There is no doubt therefore that the issue in this caseconcerns the control and management of the politicalparty – the Alliance for Democracy. This is concededby all the parties. The question then becomes narroweddown to this- whether the dispute is an intra partydispute or it is a dispute concerning the proprietaryrights or contractual rights of some of the membersof the party vis-à-vis the party itself. The practice ofthe court is not to run associations (corporations andunincorporated associations) for members. The briefof 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents put the matter verysuccinctly at p. 11 of the brief when it states that theposition of the law is that disputes which arise must beresolved by a majority decision of the members. This isthe so called majority rule otherwise known as the rulein Foss v. Harbottle (1843) 2 Hare 461, the decisionin which was first articulated …. Furthermore, looking through the statement of claim, I am unable to find anyallegation of the infringement of any personal rightsof the plaintiffs or any claim for damages therefor. Itwould be seen from the statement of claim of plaint…

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