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An Appellant’s Grief Is Assuaged On The Basis Of Its Materiality And Substantiality

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Suit NO. FHC/B/CS/152/2014 determined on 21st December 2015 by Liman J of the Benin Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, hereinafter referred to as the trial court, gave rise to all the three appeals to which this judgment relates: SC. 203/2017, SC. 445/2017 and SC. 368/2017.

A brief summary of the facts which brought about the three appeals is as outlined below.

The 1st respondent in all the three appeals, a member of the 2nd respondent in appeals No. SC. 203/2017 and SC. 445/2017 and the appellant in appeal No. SC. 368/2017, the All progressives Congress, commenced suit No. FHC/B/CS/152/2017 at the trial court against the appellants in the three appeals, to wit, Hon. Sunday Aghedo and the All Progressives Congress as well as the 3rd respondent, INEC, being the defendants. The conduct and outcome of the primary election held on the 2nd December 2014 by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to nominate its candidate in the general election for the member to represent Ovia-South West State constituency in the Edo State House of Assembly informs 1st respondent’s action; He pleads that himself and the appellant in appeals No. SC. 203/2017 and SC. 445/2017, Hon. Sunday Aghedo, were candidates at their party’s primary election and that same was conducted in a free and fair atmosphere. He further avers that he scored 152 votes against the appellant’s 140 Notes. Purporting to act on the recommendation of its election appeal committee which unlawfully upheld Hon. Sunday Aghedo’s complaints against  the result of the primary election, it is further averred, the 2nd ‘ respondent in the two appeals sent to INEC, the 3rd respondent,  appellant’s name instead of his name as the party’s candidate ‘ in the general election in clear breach of Section 87(4) (i) (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010(as amended), the 2nd respondent’s  Constitution and Electoral Guidelines.

It is also 1st respondent’s case that, notwithstanding his protests, the general election was eventually conducted with the appellant as their party’s candidate and who, at the conclusion of polls, was unlawfully returned elected. Mr. Godwin O. Adenomo prays that the nomination of Hon. Sunday Aghedo as the 2nd respondent’s candidate in the general election be nullified and that he be declared the party’s lawfully nominated a candidate at the general election instead. He seeks other declaratory and injunctive reliefs consequent upon these main prayers.

Joining issues with the plaintiff, the appellants in the three appeals, as defendants at the trial court, admit that the 2nd, December 2014 primary election of the All Progressives Congress conducted at Ozohia Model Primary School lguobazuwa was peaceful, free and fair. There were however some irregularities on the basis of which the appellant in appeals. Nos SC. 203/2017 and SC. 445/2017 petitioned the APC, the 2nd‘respondent. The committee set up by the party to consider the petition heard all sides including the plaintiff, the 1st respondent in the three appeals, asserts the appellant, and disqualified the former. Having scored the 2nd highest votes at the primary election, the appellant father avers, he was declared 2nd respondents candidate by the committee. The committee’s decision, on being affirmed by the election appeal committee, also put in place by the 2nd respondent, was ratified by the party’s National working committee.

The 2nd respondent in appeals SC. I 203/2017 and SC. 368/2017, the APC, a defendant at the trial court in denying 1st respondent’s claims also maintains that appellants nomination as its flag bearer at its 2nd December 2014 primary election is lawful, that the decision to disqualify the 1st respondent and forward appellant name instead was taken by its national/state assembly primary election committee consequent upon appellant’s petition; that the Election Appeal Committee’s ratification of the decision was further affirmed by its National Working Committee, the party’s highest working body. The primary election, the 2nd respondent further avers, was held in conformity with Section 87(4) (c) (ii), the party’s Constitution and Electoral Guidelines.

The 3rd respondent in the three appeals, the independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC), filed no pleading and adduced no evidence for or against the suit.

Hon. Sunday Aghedo and the 2nd defendant in the suit, the All Progressives Congress, by a motion on notice filed on 16th March 2015 challenged the competence of the action instituted by Mr. Godwin O. Adenomo. In its well-considered ruling thereon, see pages 1030-1044, the court overruled the objection and assumed jurisdiction over the plaintiffs/1st respondent’s suit.

At the. conclusion of trial, however, the trial court notwithstanding the fact that it had found the substitution of the 1st respondent’s name and submission of the name of the appellant in appeal No. SC. 203/2017 and appeal No. SC. 445/2017 to INEC, the 3rd respondent, to have been made in clear breach of Section 87(1) (4) (c) (i) (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the trial court all the same dismissed plaintiffs/1st respondent’s claim seeking a declaration from it to that effect.

Dissatisfied with the foregoing, the plaintiff, the 1st respondent in the three extant appeals, appealed to the lower court on a notice of appeal filed on 31-12-2015.

The 1st and 2nd defendants, the appellants in the three appeals, also appealed the trial court’s ruling on 1st respondent’s locus standi to seek the reliefs in his action.

The lower court, in allowing Mr. Godwin O. Adenomo’s appeal and dismissing that of Hon. Sunday Aghedo and the All Progressives Congress,“ held that the trial court properly assumed jurisdiction over the matter but that the court’s . decision nullifying both the All Progressives Congress’s primary election of 2nd. December 2014 and the general election conducted by INEC, the 3rd respondent, as well as all the consequential orders thereon, is perverse. The court found Mr Godwin O. Adenomo’s claim made out and granted him all the reliefs he asked but of which, the court further held, the trial court unlawfully denied him.

Aggrieved by the foregoing decision, Mr. Sunday Aghedo has filed appeals SC. 203/2017 and SC. 445/2017 to this Court against the lower court’s determination of the 1st respondent’s appeal and his cross-appeal against the competence of Mr. Adenomo’s action.

Appeal No. SC. 368/2017 filed by the All Progressives Congress, the 2nd respondent in appeals Nos. SC. 203/2017 and 445/2017, raises similar queries as does the appellant-in the two other appeals combined: SC. 203/2017 and SC. 445/2017.

At the hearing of the appeals on 19th September 2017, parties, having identified their respective briefs adopted and relied on same as their arguments for and against the appeals.

Now, this Court, we must remind ourselves, has in a seemingly endless body of its decisions, admonished counsel to formulate only such number of issues as are necessary to ensure the success of an appeal and to refrain from the poor practice of distilling issues for the fun of it. Proliferation of appeals by parties who have same interest and grievances is all the more condemnable. The success of an appeal against the decision of a court neither depend on the number of the grounds of appeal in the party’s notice nor the multiplicity of appeals against the same judgment on the basis of the same grievance. Instead, an appellant’s grief is assuaged on the basis of its materiality and Substantiality. See G.K.F.l (Nig)..Ltd V. Nitel Plc (2009) LPELR-1294 (SC) and Chief Agbaisi & 3 ors V. Ebikorefe & 6 ors (1997) 4 NWLR (Pt 502) 630 at 650.

ln the case at hand, 1st respondent’s complaint, as  pleaded, does not only fall within the purview of Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act (as amended) but, as correctly found by the lower court, unchallenged evidence abound in the record establishing the facts pleaded by the claimant as entitling him to the reliefs he seeks; in the circumstances, the lower court’s judgment which draws from the pleading and evidence on record and also imbibes the precedents in the decisions of this Court, seemingly too numerous to count here, one agrees with 1st respondent Counsel further remains unassailable. It must be sustained. lt is for this very reason that the 1st respondent’s submission contesting the perversity of the lower court’s decision appealed against must prevail.

In sum, I find no merit in the three appeals and do hereby dismiss them at a cost of three hundred thousand Naira (N300,00.00k) payable by the appellant in appeals No. SC. 203/2017 and SC. 445/2017 to the 1st respondent in the three appeals.  Furthermore, the appellant in the two appeals shall, within ninety days of this judgment, refund all salaries and allowances that wrongly accrued to him by virtue of the Ovia South Constituency seat in the Edo State House of Assembly he so unlawfully occupied. The speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly is hereby ordered to recover the said sum and credit it to the State Government Account.

Representations:

  1. 203/2017

K.E. Mozia with J. I. Odibeii and M. I. Mozia, for the appellant.

Ikhide Ehighelua with Friday itulah, M. E. Ukusare for 1st Respondent.

C.l. Aiguobarueghian for 2nd Respondent.

Usman 0. Sule with Williams A. Ataguba and Abdulrazaq Alfa for 3rd Respondent.

  1. 445/2017

K.E. Mozia with J. I. Odibeii and M. I. Mozia for the Appellant.

K.0. Obamogie with ikhide Ehighelua, Friday itulah and M. E. Ukusare for 1st Respondent.

C.I. Aiguobarueghian for 2nd Respondent.

Tunde Babalola with W. A. Adeniran Esq., and Dolapo Kehinde Esq., for 3rd Respondent

  1. 368/2017

C.I. Aiguobarueghian for AppeIIant.

K.0.Obamogie with Ikhide Ehighelua, Friday Itulah and M. E. Ukusare for 1st Respondent. ‘

  1. E. Mozia SAN, with J. I. Odibeli and M. I. Mozia for the 2nd Respondent.

Tunde Babalola with W. A.Adeniran Dolapo Kehinde for 3rd Respondent.



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