Justice U. N. Agomoh of the Ibadan Division of the Federal High Court has dismissed a suit seeking the deletion of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act which bars serving political appointees from participating in the convention of political parties for want of jurisdiction.
Justice Agomoh dismissed the suit while delivering ruling on the issue of locus Standi / Jurisdiction raised by the court.
The suit was dismissed on March 17, a day before another Federal High Court in Umuhia, Abia State, presided by Justice Evelyn Anyadike struck down the same Section 84 (12) for violating the 1999 Constitution.
The Ibadan suit was filed by Nigerian citizen, who also claimed to be a registered voter, Chief Oyewole Bolanle.
He had approached the court for an order striking down the said section for allegedly running contrary to constitutional provisions.
The suit marked: FHC/IB/CS/32/2022 has the Attorney General of the Federation as sole defendant.
Amongst reliefs he sought from the court in the Originating Summons filed by his lawyer, Mr O. J. Dare include a determination whether by the combined effect of Sections 1(3), 6(6)(a) and (b), 66(1)(f), 137(1)g) and 182(1)g) of the Constitution, the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 can validly limit, remove, abrogate, disenfranchise, disqualify.
and/or oust the constitutional right or eligibility of any political office or public office holder to vote or be voted for at any convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of nomination of such a person or candidate for any election, where such person has “ resigned, withdrawn or retired” from the said political or public office at least 30 days before the date of election.
“ A declaration that Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 cannot validly, limit, remove, abrogate, disenfranchise, disqualify, and / or oust the constitutional right or eligibility of any political office or public office holder to vote or be voted for at any convention or congress of any political party….”
He also urged the court to further declare the amended Electoral Act as “grossly ultra vires and inconsistent with 66(1)(f), 137(1)g) and 182(1)g) of the Constitution and therefore unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.
While he prayed for an order of court nullifying and or setting aside Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act for being unconstitutional, the plaintiff prayed for another order “directing and compelling the defendant to forthwith delete the provisions of Section 84 (12) with immediate effect.
However, responding, the trial court observing that the defendant was not in court and also not represented decided to throw up the issue of Locus Standi, because it “ touches on and is closely linked to the question of jurisdiction of the Court”.
Justice Agomoh stated that where a plaintiff lacks locus standi, the court cannot properly assume the jurisdiction to entertain the action.
He noted that notwithstanding claim by the plaintiff that the said contentious Section 84 (12) breached his constitutional right, the question of constitutionality or legality of the offending provisions of Section 84 12 of the Electoral Act, 2022 vis a vis Sections 1(3), 6(6)(a) and (b), 66(1)(f), 137(1)g) and 182(1)g) of the Constitution does not create any public right or public duty.
“I am of the view that the wordings of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 are without ambiguity, the right created are exercisable by political or public office holders, it is personal.
“It is for any political or public office holder who believes that his right has been infringed upon as a result of that section to approach the court for redress, and not do so by proxy or better still by a person who is not a political or public office holder. It is a personal right which a man has to accrue to himself.
“ This i must say is quite different and distinguishable from situations that cover public interest”, he held.
The court further stated that its duty to declare a violation of the provisions of the Constitution arises only when there is a dispute before it brought by legitimate disputants who would be affected by the illegality complained about.
“ The judicial powers vested on the court expansive as it is, can only be invoked by a proper application brought by a person who has sufficient legal interest to bring the action.
While he stated that there is no evidence before the court that the plaintiff is a member of any political party, he held that for him to challenge the constitutional provision, he must show sufficient justiciable interest or sufferance of injury or damage that he will suffer as a result of Section 84 (12).
In dismissing the suit for lack of jurisdiction, the judge remarked that if all registered voters decide to file suits across the country like the plaintiff, in pretense of protecting and defending the Constitution there cannot be harmony but anarchy and chaos.
“Consequent upon my thoughts above, it is my firm view that this court lacks the competence to assume jurisdiction over a case that the plaintiff lacks the locus standi to institute.
“ The resultant effect is that this suit is hereby struck out. I make no order as to costs,” he held.