On this article, Dr Ade Dawodu contends that ‘misunderstanding and misinterpretation’ of the regulation made Senator Heineken Lokpobiri to lose the Bayelsa State All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship ticket.
By Ade Dawodu
The political cum authorized drama of the current Bayelsa State governorship election climaxed with the swearing in of Senator Duoye of the Peoples Democratic Get together (PDP), who didn’t win the bulk votes in the course of the election.
Mr. David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had been declared by the Unbiased Electoral Fee (INEC) because the winner of the election.
It was the Supreme Court docket determination within the pre-election circumstances of PDP v Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo & ors SC. 1/2020 (unreported) that disadvantaged Mr. David Lyon of changing into the Governor of Bayelsa State.
However apart the case, Mr. Lyon of the APC would nonetheless not have been sworn in as Governor if the pre-election case of Senator Heineken Lokpobiri v APC Ors SC.35/2020 (unreported) had been selected its details and benefit.
Somewhat, the Court docket of Attraction and the Supreme Court docket dismissed the case on the bottom of being filed exterior the time restrict prescribed by Part 285(9)of the 1999 Structure (as altered).
Part 285(9) of the Structure offers: However something on the contrary on this Structure, each pre-election matter shall be filed no more than 14 days from the date of the incidence of the occasion, determination or part complained of within the swimsuit.
The case of Senator Lokpobiri was that he gained the bulk votes within the APC major election and that the declaration and nomination of Mr. Lyon because the APC governorship candidate was carried out in violation of related legal guidelines.
However in a preliminary objection introduced pursuant to Part 285(9) of the Structure, Mr. Lyon contended that the case was statute barred having been filed on September 18, 2019 which made it 15 days from September 4, 2019, the date of the first election.
However the trial courtroom made a big discovering of incontrovertible fact that the case was filed on September 17, 2019 and never September 18, 2019 within the phrases of the trial courtroom
Opposite to the assertion by each Realized Counsel, the Originating Summons which commenced this swimsuit was filed within the Registry of this Honourable Court docket on September 17, 2019.
That’s the date on the originating course of within the courtroom’s file which took cognizance that the Originating Summons was filed alongside the Movement Ex-parte, Movement on Discover for substituted service and abridgement of time and affidavit of maximum urgency at 1.49pm on September 17 with Treasury Receipt Quantity – 1303-3440-4854.
The date, September 18, 2019 was endorsed on the service copies which the events had been served. It seems fee for the service copies was made on September 18, 2019 as a special treasury receipt quantity.
RRR-1803-3471-3939 is endorsed thereon. The negligent act of the Registrar of Court docket seems answerable for the irregularity.
Nevertheless, it has since been held that litigants can not undergo for the negligent acts of the Registrar of Court docket. In different phrases, a procedural irregularity won’t vitiate a swimsuit as soon as it’s proven that both social gathering has not suffered a miscarriage of justice.
This vital discovering of reality by the trial courtroom that the Originating summons was filed on September 17, 2019 successfully established that Senator Lokpobiri’s circumstances was filed on the 13th day from September 4, 2019, the date of the first election when the causes of motion arose.
However the Court docket raised uncontested problems with composition of the Electoral Committee and the declaration of outcomes by the Secretary as a substitute of the Chairman; based mostly on these points, the Court docket concluded that no legitimate major election was carried out and consequently nullified Mr. Lyon’s nomination
On the Court docket of Attraction, the difficulty turned on whether or not the 4th of September, 2019 is to be included or excluded within the computation of the 14 days interval if the date is included.
Then it will imply the case was filed on the 15th day (exterior time). But when the date is excluded, the implication is that it was filed on the 14th day (inside time).
Typically, the interpretation of statutory provisions, together with the computation of time inside which to take any authorized step, is ruled by the Interpretation Act Part 1 of the Act offers that it shall apply to the provisions of any enactment besides in as far as the opposite intention seems within the Act of the enactment in query.
Pursuant to Part 15(2)(a) of the Act, ‘a reference in an enactment to a interval of days shall be construed the place the interval is reckoned from a selected occasion as excluding the day on which the occasion occurred’.
However counting on the Supreme Court docket case of Okechukwu v INEC (2014) 17 NWLR (pt.1436) 255, the Court docket of Attraction held that the Interpretation Act doesn’t apply to the interpretation of Part 285(9) of the Structure.
It subsequently dismissed the swimsuit as being statute barred having been filed exterior the 14 days interval in Okechukwu v INEC on which the Court docket of Attraction relied.
Ariwoola JSC, whereas conceding that the date of incidence of the occasion is excluded in keeping with the Interpretation Act, identified, nevertheless, that the sui generis nature of election associated issues by which time is of the essence, makes the Interpretation Act inapplicable to Part 285(9).
However there are previous Supreme Court docket circumstances which held that the Interpretation Act utilized to the computation of time in election circumstances and that the day of the occasion needed to be excluded.
Within the case of Yusuf v Obasanjo (2003) 16 NWLR (pt. 857) 554, the Supreme Court docket relied on part 15(2)(a) of the Interpretation Act in holding that the date of the incidence of the occasion – declaration of Presidential election outcome – have to be excluded within the computation of time inside which to carry an election petition.
Additionally in Ezeigwe v Nwawulu (2014) Four NWLR (pt.1183) 159, which additionally turned on the computation of time inside which to file an election petition, the instant previous Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Onnoghen, JSC (as he then was) referred to Part 15(2)(a) of the Interpretation Act and held that ‘the regulation is now settled that in calculating or computing time stipulated by statute, typically the primary day of the interval will likely be excluded from the reckoning’.
Whereas the Supreme Court docket relied on the Interpretation Act as authority for its selections within the previous circumstances of Yusuf v Obasanjo and Ezeigwu v Nwawulu, it didn’t cite any regulation aside from the sui generis nature of election associated issues as the premise why the Interpretation Act mustn’t apply within the latter circumstances of Okechukwu v INEC, together with the same case of PDP v INEC (2014) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1437) 525.
When Senator Lokpobiri’s case received to the Supreme Court docket, the apex courtroom agreed with the judgment of the decrease courtroom and held that the supply in Part 285(9) of the Structure doesn’t admit of any elongation of time past 14 days.
However the concern just isn’t about elongation of the 14 days interval moderately. It’s about when the interval ought to begin to rely. Okoro JSC conceded that Part 318(4) of the Structure incorporates the applicability of the Interpretation Act within the interpretation of the provisions of the Structure, however held that the place provisions are typically relevant, such normal provisions should give strategy to particular provisions.
However the Interpretation Act doesn’t present any normal or various time period inside which to file pre-election circumstances.
What it offers is the interpretation as to when any time period supplied in any statute, together with the structure, ought to begin to rely.
Since it’s conceded by the Supreme Court docket that the Interpretation Act applies to the structure, underneath what regulation did the Court docket exclude its software with respect to Part 285(9) of the Structure specifically?
By advantage of Part 1 of the Interpretation Act, it shall apply to the provisions of any enactment besides in as far as the opposite intention seems within the Act or the enactment into consideration.
Neither the provisions of the Interpretation Act nor the provisions of the structure exclude part 285(9) of the structure from the ambit of the Worldwide Act
Within the absence of any exclusionary statutory or constitutional provision to that impact, the Supreme Court docket lacks the jurisdiction to exclude Part 285(9) of the Structure from the provisions of the Interpretation Act.
The scenario can be totally different if there was no relevant regulation regarding the interpretation of the part. In such scenario, the Supreme Court docket might validly fill the hole by deciding to exclude the day of the occasion from the computation of time in gentle of the particular nature of election circumstances being time sure. However no such hole exists because the Interpretation Act adequately covers the sphere.
The Interpretation Act is a colonial laws that was acquired into our legal guidelines, and its unique provision on the exclusion of the day of the occasion stays the regulation until date in the UK. English courtroom have continued to use it as they’ve carried out because the 19th Century case of Radcliffe v Bartholomew (1892) 1 QB 161, by way of the 20th Century in Marren v Dawson Bentley and Co. Ltd (1961) 2 AII ER 270, and up until this 21st Century in Mathew v Sedman (2019)EWCA Civ 475.
In all these circumstances and others it was constantly held that the day on which the reason for motion arose is excluded from computation when calculating the limitation interval. The one exception is the place there’s a explicit statute on the contrary.
There isn’t any statute that at the moment excludes the day of the occasion from the computation of the 14 days interval inside which to file pre-election circumstances as supplied in Part 285(9) of the Structure.
Thus, it’s a misinterpretation of the regulation by the Supreme Court docket that denied Senator Lokpobiri justice on the finish of a protracted journey.
Along with constitutional misinterpretation, the Supreme Court docket didn’t adjust to the provisions of the Structure in listening to and deciding the circumstances.
From the lead judgment of Okoro, JSC, the only real concern on enchantment concerned the interpretation of Sections 318(4) and 285(9) of the Structure, which underneath Part 234 of the Structure is to be heard and determined by a panel of seven Justices of the Supreme Court docket. However within the case, solely 5 Justice heard and determined the enchantment.
That is curious as a result of in the newest case on the interpretation of the provisions of sections 250(2) and 253 of the Structure in Udeogu v FRN and Ors SE.622C/2019 (unreported), in any other case known as Orji Uzor Kalu’s case, a panel of seven Justices of the Supreme Court docket held and resolve the case.
So, in Senator’s Lokpobriri’s case, the Court docket was not correctly structure as regards the obligatory numbers of Justices.
On the authority of the Supreme Court docket’s determination in Madukolu v Nkemdilim (1962) LPELR-24023, the judgement may be thought of a nullity even when the courtroom held in any other case in favour of Senator Lokpobiri.
In conclusion, justice was not served within the Senator Lokpobiti’ case from the trial courtroom as much as the Supreme because of a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the regulation.
However past Senator Lokpobiri’s circumstances, the Supreme Court docket ought to look out for related future case to make clear the regulation on the interpretation of Part 285(9) of the Structure.
Most significantly, at any time when the chance gives itself and the Supreme Court docket is invited to accurately make clear the interpretation of Part 285(9) of the Structure, it should accomplish that with a full panel of seven justices.
- Dr. Dawodu, previously Senior Lecturer on the Leads Faculty of Legislation, Leeds Beckett College, United Kingdom, writes from England.