NWLR This Week: Power to Divide Local Government into Wards for Election, Where Lies

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Parties: Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor & 9 Ors v. INEC & 6 Ors

Appeal: No:SC/212/2006

Court: Supreme Court

Justices: OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA, J.S.C. (Presided)
KUMAI BAYANG AKA’ AHS, J .S.C.
AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, J.S.C.
EJEMBI EKO, J.S.C. (Read the Leading Ruling)
PAUL ADAMU GALINJE, J.S.C

Citation: (2018) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1614) P.1

Facts: 

The action was commenced by way of Originating Summons at the Federal High Court, Abuja. The Appellants, had sued the seven (7) defendants, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Population Commission (NPC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) – all agencies or agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria.                      

The Appellants had obtained leave of court to take out the suit for themselves and as representatives of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality of Warri Kingdom in the Delta State of Nigeria concerning the creation of Local Government Areas. These Structural adjustments were intended for the purpose of Local Government elections. The Delta State Independent Electoral Commission had advertised the guidelines for the creation of additional electoral ward in all the Local Government Areas of Delta State. The guidelines were exhibits R2 and R7, as published respectively in the Pointer and the Vanguard Newspapers.

No action had yet been taken physically on ground on the ward creation or the delineation of the boundaries of existing wards. At the time this suit was taken out, the Appellants were merely being guided by speculation as to what shape the additional wards and their boundaries would look like.

The foregoing are the bases of the suit brought in the Originating Summons wherein the Appellants sought the Federal High Court to determine the several questions relating to the creation of electoral Wards in Delta State by the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission. Flowing from the questions, the appellants claimed the several declaratory reliefs and injunction relating to the creation of electoral wards in Delta State in May 2002.

The Defendants at the trial court joined issues with the appellants. They also raised objections to the competence of the suit. The main planks of the objection are four, that is

  1. The propriety of instituting the suit by way of originating summons;
  2. Whether the Federal High Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter or cause,
  3. Whether the suit discloses any reasonable cause of action;
  4. Whether the appellants have locus standi to sue.
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The trial court, upon hearing the parties on the objections, held that the 1st – 3rd Defendants were not proper parties in the suit and struck out their names. It then declined jurisdiction and struck out the suit.

Aggrieved with the ruling, the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal. In turn, the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the Federal High Court and dismissed the appeal.

Still aggrieved, the appellants appealed further to the Supreme Court.

Principle:

On who has power to make laws in respect of division of Local Government Areas into wards for purpose of election into Local Government Councils  

The National Assembly has no power, except in relation to the Federal Capital Territory alone, to make any law with respect to the division of Local Government Area into Wards for purposes of election into Local Government Councils  in Nigeria. That falls within the legislative sphere of competence of the State House of Assembly. By virtue of section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, the establishment, structure and composition of each Local Government is an exclusive affairs or matter for the State Government. The function of organizing, undertaking and supervising all elections to the Local Government Councils within the State is exclusive to the State Independent Electoral Commission.

This can be seen clearly from paragraph 4 to part II B of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution. The issue of creation of additional Wards within each Local Government Area for purposes of Local Government election is a state cause within the context of section 286 of the 1999 Constitution. While, by virtue of section 251 of the same Constitution, the Federal High Court has jurisdiction over Federal causes therein listed, it does not, conversely, have jurisdiction over state causes; which denote a reference to any matter with respect to which the State House of Assembly has powers to make Laws.    

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