By Tahav Agerzua
Seven Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria today dashed the hopes of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Benue State that its defeated governorship candidate, Prince Terhemen Tarzoor, would win the appeal he filed at the apex court.
The Justices in a unanimous judgment dismissed the appeal filed by the defeated PDP governorship candidate in Zamfara State, Alhaji Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, against the nomination of the elected Governor, Alhaji Abdulazeez Abubakar Yari
of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
It held that by challenging the nomination process in another party, Alhaji Shinkafi was a ‘busy body.’
Prince Tarzoor who was defeated at the April 11, 2015 Governorship Election in Benue State anchored his election petition before the Election Tribunal on the APC governorship nomination exercise from which Governor Samuel Ortom emerged as the party’s candidate.
Both the Tribunal and Appeal Court dismissed his case after which he proceeded to the Supreme Court.
The court has scheduled to hear the appeal on January 11, 2016.
Alhaji Shinkafi who had similarly lost the election and at both the tribunal and Appeal Court on similar ground with Prince Tarzoor had also gone to the Supreme Court on appeal.
Delivering the lead judgment, Mr. Justice John Inyang Okoro held that “it is crystal clear that this appeal is devoid of any scintilla of merit and is accordingly dismissed.”
He justified the judgment on the following ground.
“Evidence on record shows that the Appellants were not aspirants who participated at the primary election of the APC (2nd Respondent) held on 4th December, 2014. Their complaint before this court is a challenge to the selection or nomination of the 1st Respondent herein by his party. The truth is that apart from the fact that the Appellants were not among the persons permitted by Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) to challenge the nomination or selection of a candidate for election, they failed to approach the appropriate court which has jurisdiction to hear the matter. Section 89 (9) of the Electoral Act (as amended) provides that such an aggrieved aspirant “may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a State or Federal Capital Territory for redress.” Certainly an Election Petition Tribunal is not mentioned here. All I have said above is that the Appellants had no locus standi to challenge the election or nomination of the first Respondent by his political party, the APC at its primary election of 4th December, 2014. The simple reason being that they were not aspirants at the said primary election. According to section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) only an aspirant who participated in a primary election can challenge its outcome. The provision is restrictive in nature.”
In his endorsement of the judgment, Justice Walter Samuel Nkannu Onnoghen held as follows:
“It is settled law that the issue of nomination of a candidate by a political party for any election is within the exclusive preserve of the political parties and that the courts have no jurisdiction to interfere therein as decided in a number of cases including Onuoha vs Okafor and ors (1983) NSCC 494; Dalhatu vs Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (pt 843) 310 etc, etc. Equally settled is the fact that at the moment, the only window opened for the courts to entertain actions on and/or concerning nomination of candidates for any election by political parties is as provided under Section 87(9) or (10) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and earlier reproduced in this judgment… It follows, therefore, that no other person or member of the political party let alone a total stranger or a non-member of the political party concerned, has the locus to challenge or question the nomination of any candidate by a political party for any election…Only an aspirant who participated in the primary election can complain. Any other complainant is a busy body without locus. See Daniel vs INEC (2015) 9 NWLR (pt 1463) 113 at 155.
Associating herself with her learned colleagues, Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili stated that:
“It is clear that assuming there was a breach of sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act (as amended) the Appellants lack the locus standi to question the infraction or breach as it is an internal matter within the exclusive domain of the 2nd respondent and only its members particularly those who contested in the said primary that have the right to throw their hat into the ring of a challenge and not a complete outsider as the 1st appellant or his party, the 2nd appellant.”
Tahav Agerzua is the Special Adviser to the Benue State Governor for Media and ICT