Duhaime’s Law Dictionary has defined Latin term, ‘’Interest Reipublicae Ut Sit Finis Litium’’ to mean ‘’in the interest of society as a whole, litigation must come to an end’’.
In reference to the public policy behind limitations, Justice Blanchard of the Federal Court of Canada, in Atanasoff v. Canada wrote: “The imposition of time limits to dispute the validity of a legal decision is of course meant to give effect to a basic idea of our legal thinking that, in the interest of society as a whole, litigation must come to an end (interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium), and the general principles adopted by the courts in dealing with applications to extend those limits were developed with that in mind.”
In Desmond v Kramer, Justice Fulop of the Superior Court of New Jersey rendered the translation as follows: “The public interest demands an end to the litigation of the same issue.”
Back home, Ikechi Francis Ogbuagu, JSC of blessed memory in Attorney-General of Rivers State v Gregory Obi Ude (SC 423/2001) delivered on Friday, the 14th day of July 2006 held, ‘’Surely and certainly, it is a Latin maxim that Interest Reipublicae ut sit finis litium – There must, in the public interest be an end to litigation’’.
On January 23, 2019, the Supreme Court refused to hear 14 pre-election appeals on the grounds that they were caught by the amendment to Section 285 of the constitution, which took effect from June 7 last year.
The amendment to Section 285 of the constitution requires the trial court to determine pre-election cases within 180 days and gives the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court 60 days each to determine such cases.
The section of the constitution also provides that such appeals are filed within 14 days of the delivery of the judgment to be appealed.
On that fateful day, in 14 different rulings, two panels of the Supreme Court, headed by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad and Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, ordered the appellant lawyers to withdraw their appeals; just as the court proceeded to strike out each of the appeals and refrained from making any consequential order.
It said since the appeals were caught by the alteration, the court no longer has jurisdiction to act on them or look into them, except striking them out of its list of cases.
According to the court, the effect of the 4th Alteration Act Number 21 was that all pre-election appeals that were not determined within the stipulated 60 days are no longer valid.
The two panels were assigned to conduct “special court sitting” to clear the court’s list of all pending pre-election appeals relating to the 2015 elections that were still pending before the court.
Curiously, the appeal filed by Senator Atai Aidoko (PDP, Kogi east) was against Air vice Marshal Isaac Mohammed Alfa (rtd) in relation to the dispute over who was the actual candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 election in Kogi East senatorial district.
The apex court also struck out a similar appeal filed in the name of the PDP against the Court of Appeal judgment, which upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court, upholding Alfa as the actual candidate of the party.
As the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal filed by Senator Aidoko on the grounds that it was filed out of time and not within 14 days of the delivery of the judgment to be appealed; the judgement of the Court of Appeal which upheld the position of the Federal High Court, declaring Alfa as the rightful person to represent Kogi east in the senate becomes the final verdict.
To all intent and purpose of natural justice, equity and good conscience, this is the end of the road to the litigation, or to the dispute over who actually emerged as the PDP candidate for Kogi east senatorial district in 2015.
There must be an end to litigation and this must be end of the road to Senator Aidoko in his judicial journeys to remain senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to Alfa, the case between him and Senator Atai Aidoko over the rightful occupant of Kogi East Senate seat has gone through 31 different Judges, just as he said he secured seven judgements in his favour and lost one.
The Federal High Court had on June 13, 2018 declared Alfa as the validly elected flag bearer of the PDP for the Kogi east senatorial seat in the 2015 election.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole who presided over the matter ordered Aidoko to vacate the seat just as it ordered INEC to re-issue certificate of return in favour of Alfa.
INEC had complied by issuing certificate of return dated July 21, 2018 signed by the commission chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu for Air vice Marshal Isaac Mohammed Alfa (rtd) as duly elected senator representing Kogi east.
In the enrolment of judgement order of the Federal High Court dated June 13, 2018, the court held in part, ‘’in the exercise of the court’s inherent disciplinary jurisdiction, the Clerk of the National Assembly is hereby directed to forthwith withdraw all the privileges, rights and perquisites of office which the 3rd defendant (Aidoko) hitherto enjoyed as a ‘member of the senate and shall convey to the Senate President, the decision of this court that he should forthwith withdraw further recognition of Aidoko as a member of 8th National Assembly whose purported election into the senate is by this judgement nullified because, he was not duly nominated by the 2nd defendant (PDP) in the aftermath of the Kogi east senatorial election held on 7/12/14 which he did not win as an aspirant’’
This judgement of the Federal High Court was upheld by 3-man panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja in the judgement they delivered on October 24, 2018.
Justice Moore Adumein who delivered the lead judgement of the Court of Appeal held that, ‘’for avoidance of any doubt, the provision of Section285 (10) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) does not affect the judgement of the trial court delivered by Kolawole, J (as he then was, now JCA) on 12/6/2018. The said judgement remains subsisting and valid, notwithstanding that this appeal is struck out for lack of jurisdiction’’.
As earlier stated above, the Supreme Court refused to vacate the concurrent judgments of the two courts, as the apex court on January 23, 2019 declined to hear the appeal brought by Senator Aidoko to set aside the appeal court judgement validating the Federal High Court judgement.
In the press conference he addressed on February 6, 2019, Alfa told the Senate President, Bukola Saraki to inaugurate him as the senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on February 19, 2019 when the senate reconvenes.
He said, it would continue to send wrong signal to refrain from obeying the court orders, and with the current position of the apex court, he urged Saraki to inaugurate him.
Alfa said, so far this dispute has pass passed through 31 judges, just as he secured seven judgements in his favour and losing one.
He said it appears that Saraki was determined to keep Aidoko in the Senate in disobedience to express court directive.
Alfa said that he was baffled about “Saraki’s serial disobedience of court orders even as he is the greatest beneficiary of court reliefs per his Code of Conduct assets declaration case.”
He said, “I am convinced that this has become necessary to let the whole world know the embarrassing and selective obedience and disobedience of court orders in the National Assembly by the Senate President and the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki decides which court orders to obey and which to disobey depending on who is involved.
“In my case in particular, the Federal High Court ordered on the 13th day of June, 2018 that I should be sworn in as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Kogi East Senatorial District.
“This order of the Federal High Court was affirmed by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, yet the leadership of the National Assembly ignored the various orders of Court.
“I have not been able to obtain from Dr Saraki the actual reason behind his determination to keep me out of the Senate at all cost, although people have advanced several reasons; from his determination to install his stooge as the next Governor of Kogi State with Senator Atai Aidoko as deputy, his hatred for Igala people of Kogi State for a perceived wrong they might have done to his father to his personal hatred for the ex-Military, with me as a very high symbol, not minding the fact that I am in the same party with him.
“This case has gone through 31 different Judges who are all aware of the Senate President’s deliberate refusal to swear me in.
“The question that should bother every Nigerian is; If the Senate President still refuses to immediately swear me in and keeps Senator Aidoko in the Senate (as Senator Aidoko has boasted despite the Supreme Court judgement), what image is he projecting of the Senate to the whole world?
“That the Senate refuses to obey the judgment of the apex court of the land?
“Under such circumstance, does the Senate have any justification to fault the Executive?
“The whole World wonders at Dr Saraki’s serial disobedience of court orders even as Dr Saraki is the greatest beneficiary of court reliefs per his Code of Conduct assets declaration case.
“More worrisome is the fact that Dr Saraki is the Chief Law Enacting Officer of this Country. This is the same Dr Saraki who daily accuse the government of high handedness, disobedience or selective obedience of court orders.”