In a case where a renowned political party sued another political party at the High Court of Ogun State challenging the outcome of the primaries after a month, the Court dismissed the case for want of jurisdiction.
By virtue of Section 29 (5) and 84 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended), the outcome or conduct of a political party’s primary election can be challenged and where successful reversed.
This is because the law enjoins or compels or expects a political party to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the Constitution, the Party’s Constitution, and its Guidelines in the conduct of the primary elections and the emergence of its candidate for any elective office or position in Nigeria.
The law also expects a level playing ground for all interested applicants or aspirants in the purchase of relevant Forms, screening, participation, and emergence. So at the final stage, it is the aspirant with the highest number of votes that must be declared the winner and his/her name forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the purposes of contesting the election.
Where, therefore, there is an allegation of non-compliance, by a political party in the conduct of its primaries, such act of non-compliance can be challenged in court. And for any competent challenge to take place, the following requirements must be considered and present:
- The challenger/complainant/plaintiff as the case may be, must be a member of the same political party.
- He/she must have purchased, completed, and submitted relevant Forms e.g., An Expression of Interest and Nomination Form.
- He/she must have been screened and cleared by the political party or a committee set up for that purpose.
- He must have participated in the primaries.
- The case must be before a Federal High Court since the issue of nomination via primary election is a pre-election matter. (Under the repealed Electoral Act, High Courts of states including the Federal Capital Territory had the jurisdiction to entertain pre-election matters. See, Sec 87 (9) thereof).
However, under the extant Electoral Act, the jurisdiction to entertain pre-election matters is now the exclusive preserve of the Federal High Court and no other.
Not even an Election Tribunal can entertain pre-election matters as they are established only for post-election matters. While the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Courts can entertain pre-election matters only in their appellate jurisdictions not in the original jurisdiction.
- The suit must have been filed within fourteen (14) days after the cause of action arose (in this case when the act of noncompliance took place).
Therefore, a political party cannot sue another political party. Even a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) or any other organization, not a living human being who is not a member cannot bring such action to the Court. See, APM V. INEC (2023) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1890) at PG 491-492 paras G-B.
See also, Osoh v. APC (2023) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1891) at PG 51.
It is pertinent to establish the fact that, in my thoughts, the law was amended to avoid the unpleasant interference of politicians at the state level and conflicting or embarrassing decisions across the states.
Not even an election tribunal can entertain pre-election matters as they are established only for post-election matters.
LEGAL TIPS is anchored by Ms CIA Ofoegbunam, an Abuja-based lawyer who is passionate about legal practice. LEGAL TIPS offers quick hints on substantive law, as well as rules of practice and procedure, and serves as a handy reference guide to lawyers, especially in court. Published on a weekly basis, the LEGAL TIPS Series is CIA’s modest contribution to legal development in Nigeria.