Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear about 14 pre-election appeals on the grounds that they were caught by the amendment to Section 285 of the Constitution (aka 4th Alteration Act Number 21 of 2017), which came into effect on June 7, 2018.
The amendment to Section 285 of the Constitution required the trial court to determine pre-election cases with 180 days and gives the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court 60 days each to determine such cases. It also provides that such appeals are filed with 14 days of the delivery of the judgment to be appealed.
In the about 14 different rulings yesterday, two panels of the Supreme Court, headed by Justices Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed and Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, asked the appellant lawyers, including Alex Iziyon (SAN), to withdraw their appeals.
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 case.
The court said the effect of the 4th Alteration Act Number 21 was that all pre-election appeals that were not determined within the stipulated 60 days have become spent (no longer valid).
The two panels that sat 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.
Justice Tanko Mohammed, who headed the first panel, explained that the Supreme Court had, in its judgments on January 18, this year, in two pre-election appeals, dealt with all issues and questions relating to the 4th Alteration Act and when it became effective.
He said the judgments, which were in appeals: SC/307/2018 and SC/308/2018 formed the position of the court in all pre-election appeals and the question as regard when the amendment took effect.
Justice Tanko Mohammed said, as it was the position of the court in the two judgments delivered last Friday, the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear any pre-election appeal that has stayed unheard at the expiration of the constitutional stipulated 60 days.
On whether the 4th Alteration Act, which was assented to by the President on June 7, 2018, could have retrospective effect, Justice Tanko Mohammed said the new law, being a procedural law, assumes immediate effect.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour also echoed the position, when he presided over the second panel.
On what happens to the decisions of the courts, which formed the subject of the appeals, Justice Rhodes-Vivour said the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the appeals.
He added: “We do not have the power to pronounce on what happen at the lower courts since we lacked the jurisdiction to hear your appeal.”
Almost all lawyers to the appellants in the appeals expressed discomfort about the court’s position. They all also said they have not read the court’s judgments in SC/307/2018 and SC/308/2028, which the Supreme Court said contains its position and the current position of the law on the issue.
Lazarus Undi, who appeared for an appellant, Benjamin B. Nungwa, in the appeal marked: SC/112/2018, was particularly unhappy about the court’s position.
He said his case was different because his client had anticipated the effect of the new amendment, filed the appeal with 14 days and wrote to the court’s registrar that the appeals falls among cases that must be decided within 60 days.
He said the delay in determining the appeal with the 60 days was on the part of the court and not the appellant.
Izinyon (SAN), who represented the appellant in one of the appeals that was struck out, hailed the court for “taking the bull by the horn in dealing with that issue (as it relates to the effect of the 4th Alteration Act on pre-election cases filed before it was assented to) at once”.
He noted that the court’s position may affect some litigants and lawyers negatively, but expressed optimism that it would benefit all in the long run.
Some of the affected appeals included the one by Senator Atai Ali Aidoko against Air Marshal Isaac Alfa 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.
The 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.
Also affected was the appeal by Senator Umaru Dahiru and another against All Progressives Congress (APC) and others, in which the appellant is challenging the candidacy of Sokoto State Governor Waziri Tambuwal in the 2015 election.
The court also struck out the appeal filed by Wahab Abiodun and four others against Senator Monsurat Jumoke Aduke Sunmonu and another.
Other appeals struck out are a suit filed by Sir Friday Nwanozia Nwosu against PDP and three others; Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission and another against Augustine N. Ngo and others and Benjamine B. Nungwa and APC against Joseph Hemen Boko and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Also struck out are suit by Ikenna Cyprian Uzokwelu against PDP and suit by Anthony Itayi and another against Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and two others.