PETER OBI V INEC-2008

PETER OBI V INEC

(2008) LCN/3625(SC)

In the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Case Number:  SC. 123 / 2007

 

JUSTICES:

KATSINA-ALU JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

OGUNTADE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

MOHAMMED JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

TABAI MUHAMMAD JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

ADEREMI JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

ENEH JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

BETWEEN

APPELLANTS

MR. PETER OBI(GOVERNOR OF ANAMBRA STATE)

AND

RESPONDENTS

1.INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC)

2.ALL NIGERIA PEOPLES PARTYPRINCE NICHOLAS UKACHUKWU

3.PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTYDR.

3.ANDY UBA

4.PEOPLES MANDATE PARTY

5.ARTHUR OBIEFUNIA

6.NWANDU IFEANYICHUKWU OKONKWO (For himselfand on behalf of Nigeria Advance Party)

 

KATSINA-ALU, JSC:

(Delivering the Judgment by the Court):

This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court below given on 22 May 2007. The Court below had affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court which declined jurisdiction in the matter on the ground that only the Election Tribunal could entertain same.

I have read the proceedings of the two courts below and adverted my mind fully to the nature of the appellant’s case. I have also given consideration to the arguments of counsel in their written brief and their oral argument. It is my firm view that what plaintiff/appellant had sought by his claim was the true interpretation of section 180(2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution. The court under the 1999 Constitution and in particular section 251(l)(q) and (r) has the jurisdiction to interpret any provision of the Constitution or the law. It is therefore my view that the court below was wrong to hold that this was an election matter under section 285 of the 1999 Constitution. I therefore allow the appeal on jurisdiction.

In the interest of justice and having regard to the fact that the relevant facts in this matter are not in dispute, I ought to proceed to exercise the power vested in this Court under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. Let me reiterate that the only relevant fact is the date when the plaintiff/appellant took his oath of allegiance and oath of office which is 17 March 2006. Happily the said provision is very clear and explicit and all I need do is to apply it. The provision reads:

“180-(2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the Governor shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date when –

(a) in the case of a person first elected as Governor under this Constitution, he took the oath of allegiance and oath of office;”

There being no dispute on the fact that plaintiff/appellant took his oath of allegiance and oath of office on 17 March 2006 his term of office will expire on: 17 March 2010.

I now consider the orders to make. The plaintiff/appellant had in his claim before the High Court sought both declaratory and injunctive reliefs directed at protecting his four year term of office . In its effect, the claim is another way that his term of office extends beyond May 29, 2007. However the 1st Respondent inspite of its awareness that the case was still pending in court went on to conduct the purported election.

This court and indeed any court ought not to permit its processes to be treated with disdain. I therefore have the duty to ensure that plaintiff/appellant’s appeal is not rendered nugatory. I therefore make the following declaration and order–

  1. That the office of Governor of Anambra State was not vacant as at 29 May 2007.
  2. It is ordered that the 5th Respondent Dr. Andy Uba should vacate the office of the Governor of Anambra State with immediate effect to enable the plaintiff/appellant Mr. Peter Obi to exhaust his term of office.

I will give my full reasons on 13-7-07.

G.A. OGUNTADE, JSC:

The facts leading to this appeal are very simple and straightforward. In addition, the relevant provision of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria are very explicit in relation to the facts. The two Courts below patently fell into error, because they misunderstood and in consequence misinterpreted the provisions of sections 184 and 285 of the 1999 Constitution. This error led them to conclude that the suit by the plaintiff appellant could only be heard by an election tribunal. This suit was filed at the trial court on 12-2-07. At that time the office of the Governor of Anambra State had not become vacant; neither was there a dispute as to whether the term of office of the plaintiff had ceased. The plaintiff (now appellant) only brought his suit to invoke the interpretative jurisdiction of the Federal high Court under section 251(l)(r) of the 1999 Constitution. There is clearly a jurisdiction in the Federal High Court to hear plaintiffs suit.

As for the merit of plaintiff’s suit, Section 180(2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution is clear and unambiguous. It says:

“180. (2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the Governor shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date when –

(a) in the case of a person first elected as Governor under this Constitution, he took the Oath of Allegiance and oath of office;”

The only conclusion to be arrived at on the above provision of section 180(2) is that the 4 year term of office of the plaintiff commenced on 17-3-2006 when he first took the oath of office. His term will not expire until 7-3-2010. To arrive at any conclusion different from the above will amount to a subversion of the Constitution. I am aware that the conclusion now reached will impose pain and hardship on those who have been made to expend resources and time in the quest to fill an office which was not vacant. But the Constitution of the land which I have sworn to protect must be upheld.

I intend to give fuller reasons for my judgment on 13-07-2007. It suffices to say that I agree with the lead judgment by my learned brother Katsina-Alu JSC presiding. I subscribe to all the orders in the said lead judgment.

F.F. TABAI, JSC

I agree with the reasoning and conclusion in the lead judgment of my learned brother Katsina-Alu, J.S.C. I allow the appeal on the issue of jurisdiction. And by virtue of section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, I have also considered the originating summons. Reliefs 1 and 2 of the originating summons ought to be and are accordingly granted. I shall also give my fuller reasons on the 13/7/07.

I.T. MUHAMMAD, JSC:

Appealed allowed. Plaintiff/appellant sought interpretation of section 182(1) of the Constitution.

The court below was wrong to say the matter was an election matter.

Under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, this appeal is hereby allowed. The following orders are accordingly made:

(1) As at 29th May, 2007, the office of Governor of Anambra State was not vacant

(2) 1st respondent was aware of the case pending in court but went ahead to conduct a purported election

(3) The 5th respondent Dr. Andy Uba to vacate office; to allow Mr. Peter Obi to exhaust his term of office

P.O. ADEREMI, JSC:

The reliefs claimed are in the main declaratory – a pronouncement as to the state of the law. A court always has jurisdiction to make a pronouncement on the state of the law. Therefore the two courts below are wrong to have declined jurisdiction.

Invoking the provisions of Sec. 22 of the Supreme Court which I must do in the interest of justice, I hold that the appeal is meritorious. Full reasons to be given by me on 13th July 2007.

C.M. CHUKWUMA-ENEH, JSC

I have read the judgment prepared and delivered by my learned brother Katsina-Alu JSC in this matter and I agree with him that the High Court has the jurisdiction to interpret any provision of the Constitution and the law. I also allow the appeal on jurisdiction.

I am in complete agreement with the conclusion read out by Katsina-Alu, JSC. I shall give full reasons on 13th July, 2007. No order as to costs.

REASONS FOR JUDGMENT

P.O. ADEREMI, JSC (Lead Judgment):

On Thursday 14th of June 2007, I delivered my judgment in the open court in this matter sequel to taking the addresses of the respective counsel representing the parties in this appeal and I did say that I would give my reasons for the judgment today. I now proceed to give my reasons.

I start by saying that the appeal here is against the judgment of the Court of Appeal [Enugu Division] delivered on the 22nd of May 2007 dismissing the appeal of the appellant herein against the judgment of the Federal High Court, Enugu Division delivered on the 30th of March 2007 in Suit No. FHC/EN/CS/27/2007: Peter Obi v. Independent National Electoral Commission in which the trial court declined jurisdiction to adjudicate in the matter placed before it. Suffice it to say that by Originating Summons dated 12th of February 2007 and filed the same date, the appellant, who was the plaintiff before that court had claimed for the determination of the following questions:-

“(1) Whether having regard to Section 180 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution, the tenure of office of a Governor first elected as Governor begins to run when he took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office.

(2) Whether the Federal Government of Nigeria through the defendant being its agent can conduct any Governorship election in Anambra State in 2007 when the incumbent Governor took Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office on 17th March 2006 and has not served his four-year tenure as provided under Section 180 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution.”

Simultaneously, he prayed for the following orders:-

“(1) A declaration that the four year tenure of Office of the plaintiff as Governor of Anambra State began to run from the date he took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office being the 17th day of March 2006.

(2) A declaration that the Federal Government through the defendant being its agent cannot lawfully conduct any governorship election in Anambra State in 2007 in so far, as the plaintiff as the incumbent Governor has not served his four-year term of office commencing from when he took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office on 17th March, 2006.

(3)  Injunction restraining the defendant by themselves, their agents, servants, assigns and privies or howsoever from in any way, conducting any regular election for the Governorship of Anambra State until the expiration of a period of 4 (four) years from the 17th of March, 2006, when the plaintiffs tenure of office will expire.”

The originating summons was supported by a 15-paragraph affidavit. The defendant entered a conditional appearance. The present 2nd and 3rd respondents filed an application on the 23rd of February 2007 praying the court for an order joining them as defendants in the suit. The 1st defendant/respondent filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection on the 26th of February 2007 challenging the jurisdiction of the trial court to entertain the suit. The 4th and 5th respondents also brought an application filed on 2nd March 2007 praying the trial court to join them as 4th and 5th defendants respectively to the summons. So also the 6th and 7th respondents had applied to be joined in the suit as defendants. The other respondents after being joined as parties, upon their applications, filed written applications, and addresses challenging the competence of the action. In his 15-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiff/appellant had deposed that sequel to the election for the Governorship of Anambra State on the 19th April 2003, Dr. Chris Ngige was wrongfully declared the winner by the 1st respondent (Independent National Electoral Commission). Dissatisfied with the said declaration of results, the appellant lodged a petition at the Election Petition Tribunal. The declaration was set aside by the Tribunal and it was held that the appellant, who secured the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election was the candidate duly elected. The appeal lodged by Dr. Chris Ngige to the Court of Appeal [Enugu Division] against the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal was dismissed and the appellate court upheld the decision of the Tribunal, consequent upon which the appellant [Peter Obi] was sworn in as the Governor of Anambra State on the 17th of March, 2006.

The basis of the appellant’s case before the trial court as can be gathered from the questions posed by him for determination by the trial court as set out above by me, is that by the provisions of Section 180 (2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, his four-year tenure of office commenced from the date he was sworn in as the Governor of Anambra State; that is 17th March, 2006 and that election into that Office ought not be proposed for 14th April 2007 as the 1st respondent planned to do; for by necessary inference, that office would not be vacant on 14th April, 2007.

By a motion on notice dated and filed on 28th February 2007, the plaintiff/appellant prayed the trial court for accelerated hearing of the proceedings/pending applications including the accelerated reference of the questions formulated by him to the Court of Appeal for adjudication. The questions formulated for reference to the Court of Appeal as set out in the body of the motion are as follows:-

“(1) Whether having regard to Section 251 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the case which in the main, calls for the correct interpretation of Section 180 (2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

(2)  Whether the plaintiff is “a person first elected as Governor” within the meaning of Section 180 (2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(3)  In view of Section 180 (2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, when did the tenure of office of the plaintiff begin to run having regard to the fact as admitted by both parties, that the plaintiff took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office as Governor of Anambra State on 17th March, 2006?

(4)  Having regard to the fact that the plaintiff took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office on 17th March 2006, is the plaintiff not entitled to enjoy the full tenure of 4 years for the office of Governor as prescribed by Section 180 (2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999?

(5) Can the defendant lawfully abridge the tenure of 4 years prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 for a person such as the plaintiff elected as Governor of a State by holding election for the office of Governor for a State in the middle of plaintiffs tenure, in other words, can the defendant lawfully conduct a Governorship Election in Anambra State in April 2007 notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiff took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office only on the 17th March 2006?

(6)  On a proper interpretation of Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria particularly Section 180 (2) (a), must election be held in all the 36 States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the same date or at the same period irrespective of the date the Governor of a State was sworn and regardless of the provisions of Section 180 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

(7)  Has the plaintiff waived his right to continue to remain in office as the Governor of Anambra State for the full tenure of four years when the plaintiff is not a candidate recognised by the defendant in the 2007 general elections into the gubernatorial election in Anambra State?”

After taking arguments of all counsel on the motions and the preliminary objection as to jurisdiction; in a considered ruling delivered on the 30th of March 2007, the learned trial judge held that questions 2-7 do not constitute materials for reference to the Court of Appeal and he consequently dismissed the motion for reference. On the most important issue which is Issue No.l relating to matter of jurisdiction, the learned trial judge declined jurisdiction to entertain the summons, he therefore struck out the summons. The appellant, being dissatisfied with the decision, lodged an appeal to the court below (Court of Appeal). Following the exchange of briefs among the counsel and taking of their respective arguments on the said briefs filed, the court below, in a reserved judgment delivered on the 22nd of May 2007, dismissed the appeal in toto.

In so doing, it held, inter alia, that the reliefs sought by the appellant were mainly election matters which according to it, were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal and therefore the Federal High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain same and that by extension, following its holding that it was the Election Tribunal that was vested with jurisdictional power in the matter, the court below (the Court of Appeal) could not invoke the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and adjudicate in the substantive matter. The court below also upheld the preliminary objection raised by the 1st respondent against ground 4 of the grounds of appeal and issue No.4 in the appellant’s brief to the effect that the trial court having refused to make a reference, should have proceeded to pronounce on the merits of the case for reason that it was not raised before the trial court. Again, being dissatisfied with the decision of the Court below, the appellant appealed to this court by a Notice of Appeal dated 22nd May 2007 which has incorporated into it four grounds. Distilled from the said grounds of appeal and incorporated into the appellant’s brief of argument, for determination, are three issues which are in the following terms:-

“(1) Whether the learned justices of the Court of Appeal were correct when they upheld the decision of the Federal High Court declining jurisdiction and held that the prayers in the appellant’s originating summons were election matters within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal.

(2) Whether the Court of Appeal was right in striking out Ground IV of the appellant’s ground of appeal and issue IV distilled therefrom.

(3) Whether having regard to the proper appreciation of the appellant’s prayers in the originating summons the Court of appeal was right in not invoking the powers under Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act.”

The 1st respondent (INEC) identified four issues for determination; and as contained in its brief of argument, they are as follows:-

“(1) Whether the Court of Appeal was right in upholding the preliminary objection to ground 4 and issue developed therefrom.

(2) Whether the Court of Appeal were correct when they upheld the decision of the learned judge to decline jurisdiction over the subject matter of the plaintiff/ appellant’s originating summons and in particular:

(i) whether the subject matter in the appellant’s claim did not border on tenure of office for which the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (hereafter the Constitution or CFRN), Cap C23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 has exclusively, vested special jurisdiction on a specialised court, to wit Election Tribunal by virtue of Sections 285 (2) and 184.

(ii) Whether the lower court was correct in following judicial precedents of the Supreme Court with respect to the ouster of the court’s jurisdiction bordering on electoral and tenure matters provided for in Sections 285 and 184 of the 1999 Constitution, having regard to the subject-matter disclosed by the appellant’s originating summons.

(3) Whether the lower court was right in holding that the matter sought to be referred to the (sic) it as a Higher Court were not proper subjects for reference in view of the recent Supreme Court case of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar v. A-G. of the Federation (2007) 3 NWLR (Pt.1022) page 601, and a host of other cases on the issue of constitutional reference.

(4) Whether this was an appropriate case for the exercise of the general powers of the Court of Appeal under Section 16 of the Court of Appeal and if so whether the reliefs sought in the originating summons of the appellant ought to be granted having regard to the clear provisions, framework and intendment of the 1999 Constitution.”

For their part, the 2nd respondent (All Nigeria People’s Party) raised three issues for determination, as contained in their brief of argument. They are as follows:-

“(i) Whether the learned justices of the Court of Appeal were correct when they upheld the decision of the Federal High Court declining jurisdiction and held that the prayers in the appellant’s originating summons were election matters within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal.

(ii) Whether the Court of Appeal was right in striking out Ground IV of the appellant’s ground of appeal and Issue IV distilled therefrom.

(iii) Whether having regard to the proper appreciation of the appellant’s prayers in the originating summons the Court of Appeal was right in not invoking the powers under Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act.”

The 3rd respondent (Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu) also raised three issues for determination by this court, and as could be gathered from his brief, they are as follows:-

“(1) Whether the Court of Appeal was right in upholding the decision of the learned trial judge declining jurisdiction on the ground that the reliefs in the originating summons, are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal as they are related to a determination of the tenure of the Governor of Anambra State.

(2) Whether the Court of Appeal was right when it declined to invoke its powers under Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act to hear and determine the substantive case as per the originating summons.

(3) Whether the Court of Appeal was right to have struck out the ground IV of the appellant’s ground of appeal as well as the issue distilled therefrom.”

The 4th and 5th respondents (Peoples Democratic Party and Dr. Andy Uba) on their own identified three issues or determination through their joint brief and they are as follows:-

“(1) Whether the Court of Appeal was right in upholding the preliminary objection to ground 4 of the Appellant’s ground of appeal and issue No.4 distilled therefrom.

(2) Whether the Court of Appeal were correct when they upheld the decision of the Federal High Court Enugu Division declining jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the plaintiff/appellant’s originating summons.

(3) Whether this was an appropriate case for the exercise of the general powers of the Court of Appeal under Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and accordingly whether the Court of Appeal was right in refusing to do so.”

The 6th and 7th respondents (Peoples Mandate Party and Arthur Obiefuna Nwandu) through their joint brief of argument raised for determination by this court, two issues which as could be gleaned from the said briefs, are in the following terms:-

“(1) Whether the questions sought to be determined and reliefs sought are election matters within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Election Petition Tribunal as decided by the court below or Constitutional interpretation within the jurisdiction of Federal High Court.

(2) If the answer to question one is that it is within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, then whether the plaintiff/appellant has made out a case on the merit in the originating summons to have the case determined in his favour by the Court of Appeal pursuant to its power under Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act.”

When this appeal came before us for argument on the 14th of June 2007, senior learned counsel and learned counsel representing the parties in this appeal referred to, adopted and relied on the respective briefs filed on behalf of their respective clients. Dr. Ikpeazu, learned senior counsel for the appellant after relying on the appellant’s brief of argument filed on 24/5/07 and the reply brief filed on 11/06/07 in response to the 2nd respondent’s brief of argument (the two reply briefs filed on 1st June 2007 and 11th June 2007 respectively in reply to the 1st respondent’s brief of argument having been withdrawn and consequently struck out) and submitted, that going by the reliefs sought, they were not within the realm of election matters; for according to him, through the brief of argument of the appellant, none of the parties challenged the returns made at any election or a  determination made by the Election Tribunal or the Court of Appeal (the court below).

It was the appellant’s further submission that by virtue of the provisions of Section 251 (1) (r) and (q) of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal High Court had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit. On Issue II the appellant submitted that it was wrong for the court below to have struck out ground 4 of the grounds of appeal when, according to him, the purpose of that ground was to show that the trial court had jurisdiction to hear the suit and a fortiori, the court below could then invoke the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act. And since the substantive appeal against the ruling of the trial court that it had no jurisdiction had not been determined by the court below, it was wrong of that court (the Court of Appeal) to hold that the aforesaid ground of appeal presumed that the trial court had jurisdiction. That ground, it was further submitted, was competent and not being a fresh issue, it did not require any leave of court to file same. On issue No.3, it was submitted that the essence of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act was to enable the court below, to which that section applies, have wide latitude of power to deal with any case before it from a trial court as if that case was originally initiated before it; provided all the material necessary was present before it, It was his final submission on this point that all the material necessary were present before the that court. The court below therefore erred in law for not invoking the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act. He urged this court to invoke the provisions of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act which are in pari materia and assume full jurisdiction over the entire substantive matter in this case while finally submitting that based on the interpretation of the provisions of Sections 180 (2) (a) and 185 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, an order should be proclaimed by this court, that the appellant, as the Governor of Anambra State is entitled to serve a four-year term from the date he took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office, that being 17th day of March 2006. He urged that the appeal be allowed.

Chief Anthony Idigbe, learned senior counsel representing the 1st respondent, in highlighting the submissions contained in the brief of his client (INEC) submitted that from the reliefs sought by the appellant before the trial court, it was clear that the term of the office of the Governor of Anambra State was what the appellant was praying the trial court to determine; and that, according to him was a matter for an Election Tribunal: praying in aid of this submission the decision of this court in A.N.P.P. v. Returning Officer S.C.78/2005 delivered on 22nd February 2007. The appellant, he submitted, was in the wrong court when he initiated his action in the Federal High Court; the proper venue, according to him, would be the Election Tribunal. Continuing, he said the trial court was right in holding that the Constitution did not confer any jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to entertain this suit; and the court below was right in upholding that decision; he prayed in aid, the decisions in Ishola v. Ajiboye (Pt.352) 506 at 619 and Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 S.C.N.L.R. 341, (2001) 3 SCM, 185. On the issue of the propriety of the trial court’s decision on refusal to make reference, it was submitted that the trial court was right in so refusing, having regard to its decision that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit; and the court below, it was further submitted, was right in upholding that decision, reliance was placed on the decision in Ifegwu v. FRN (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt.842) 15, (2003) 8 SCM, 111, and Bamaiyi v. A-G Fed (2001) 12 N.W.L.R. (Pt.727) 468 at 475, (2001) 11 SCM, 80

On its issue No.3 on whether the lower court ought to have invoked the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act; it was submitted that the trial court having declined to have jurisdiction to entertain the suit, there was nothing left to be done; that finding, according to it, is what distinguishes the present case from the decision in Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007) 4 N.W.L.R. (Pt.1025) 423, (2007) 15 SCM, 1 in which the court below invoked the aforesaid provisions. The learned senior counsel finally urged that the appeal should be dismissed.

Mr. Okafor, learned counsel for the 2nd respondent, through the brief of argument of his client filed on 4th June 2007, submitted that the court below was correct in upholding the decision of the trial court that it lacked the jurisdiction to hear the suit. He went further to submit that from the reliefs sought which, according to him was to determine the jurisdiction of the court, it was clear that the issue of tenure of office of the appellant within the interpretation of the provisions of Sections 184 and 285 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 was what called for determination; and by the aforesaid provisions, it is only the Electoral Tribunal that can entertain the suit. Referring to the provisions of Section 251(1) (r) and (q) of the Constitution he submitted that they did not confer adjudicatory powers on the Federal High Court as, it was further submitted, the issue in this case is covered absolutely by the provisions of Section 285 of the Constitution. On its issue No.3 as to the propriety of the court below not invoking the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and then proceed to entertain the claim, the learned counsel, through the brief of his client aligned himself with the submissions of Chief Idigbe S.A.N. learned senior counsel for the 1st respondent which is to the effect that based on all the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act referred to, the nullification of Ngige’s election (the Governor before Obi, the appellant) did not treat the period he (Ngige) served as a non-event. Therefore, Ngige having taken the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office on the 29th May 2003, the four-year mandate given by the electorate would start running from that day; and to hold otherwise would be to undermine and subvert the right of the people (electorate); more importantly, is the fact, according to him, that the matter in controversy is purely an electoral matter which must be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Electoral Tribunal and not the Federal High Court. The trial court, having lacked jurisdiction to entertain the substantive suit, the court below could not invoke the provisions of Section 16 aforesaid. Learned counsel finally urged us to dismiss the appeal.

Mr. Ezechukwu, learned counsel for the 3rd respondent on going through the written brief of his client filed on 4th June 2007 for the purpose of highlighting salient points of argument said nothing new outside the briefs of the 1st and 2nd respondents. Suffice it to say that I have read all the briefs filed very carefully therefore, I do not consider it expedient to repeat all what others have said. Perhaps, I should say that he submitted, through the written brief, that ground 4 of the appellant’s Notice of Appeal raised fresh issue for which the leave of the court was required and since none was sought and obtained, the court below was right in striking out the issue founded upon it. It was his final submission that the decision of the court below be affirmed and the main suit struck out.

Mr. Udenze, learned counsel for the 4th and 5th respondents, in presenting

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