Supreme Court strikes out HDP’s suit challenging Buhari’s election

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck out the appeal filed by Chief Ambrose Owuru the candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The appeal was struck out on the grounds that Owuru and his party engaged in gross abuse of court processes by filing two notices of appeal contrary to the provisions of the law.

In the unanimous decision read by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, the five member panel of Justices upheld the objection raised by the respondents in the suit and subsequently dismissed the appeal.

Justice Odili upheld the argument of Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, that the two appellants embarked on a journey aimed at misdirecting the court by filing two notices of appeal and simultaneously used the two notices to formulate grounds of appeal, contrary to the provisions of the law.

The court having upheld the preliminary objections of the three respondents to the appeal said that the HDP’s appeal has nothing to stand upon and consequently struck out the appeal.

The panel held that it was wrong for the appellants to have filed two notices of appeal and simultaneously used the two to argue their case even when they were within the time allowed by law to file a proper notice of appeal.

Odili held that the two appellants did not appeal the ruling of the tribunal which declared their petition incompetent and an abuse of court process, and struck it out but chose to appeal against the substantive judgment on the main petition which was delivered by the tribunal, “out of abundant caution”.

With the failure of the appellants to appeal against the ruling of the tribunal on the respondents’ objections to the petition, Justice Odili held that their appeal against the substantive judgment of the tribunal has no legs to stand upon.

Owuru and HDP had dragged the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to the apex Court over the dismissal of their petition challenging the declaration of Buhari as winner of the presidential election.

The court in striking out the suit further held that failure of the appellants to appeal the Aug. 22 ruling of the tribunal which had struck out their petition for being incompetent was fatal to their appeal.

Counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Yunus Usman SAN, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) Lateef Fagbemi SAN had in separate preliminary objections asked the apex court to strike out the appeal on the grounds that the appellants contravened the law by filing two notices of appeal in one matter.

They drew the attention of the court to the first notice of appeal filed on August 28 and the second one filed on Sept. 2, which were simultaneously used to formulate issues in the main appeal and which were predicated on different grounds.

The first one has 12 grounds and the second, eight grounds.

The respondents argued that the action of the appellants by the two notices of appeal constituted gross abuse of court process and aimed at irritating and annoying the respondents.

In his own notice of preliminary objection filed on Sept. 16, counsel to the APC insisted that the appellants attempted to build their appeal on nothing since the decision of the tribunal that they have no competent petition known to law was not challenged.

Fagbemi informed the tribunal that the petition relied upon by the appellants to come to the Supreme Court had been declared nonexistent by the decision of Justice Mohammed Garba, adding that until the decision of the tribunal on the competency of the petition is set aside, the two appellants have no business coming to court without challenging the declaration of the petition as incompetent by the tribunal.

However, counsel to the appellants, Isaac Udoka, made spirited efforts to convince the apex court on why the two notices of appeal were filed in respect of one matter.

Udoka submitted that the appellants were forced to do so because the presidential election petition tribunal did not release a clean copy of its Aug. 22 judgment on time while the time to file a notice of appeal was running out.

He urged the court to use its discretion to consider the second notice of appeal as a continuation of the first one.

It would be recalled that the tribunal had in a separate ruling on Aug. 22 voided the petition of Owuru and HDP for not being in conformity with the position of the law and for being an abuse of court process. 

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