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State High Court has no supervisory jurisdiction on an Election Petition Appeal Tribunal

In the Supreme Court of Nigeria at Abuja
On Friday March 5, 2010 before their lordships
Dahiru Musdapher, George Adesola Oguntade,  Francis Fededo  Tabai, Ibrahim Tanka Muhammad Oluufunlola Oyeiola Adekeye (Justices of the Supreme Court)
Between

Hon. Ehioze Egharevba
and
1. Hon. Crosby Osadolor Eribo
2. Edo State Independent Electoral Commission
3. Attorney General, Edo State
4. Governor of Edo State
5. Hon. Justice R. I. Amalie
6. Hon. Justice S. O. Oigbokie
7. Hon. Justice P. I. Imoedemhe
(For themselves and on behalf of Edo State Local
Government Election Appeal Tribunal)
sc. 132/2009

Does the High Court have Supervisory jurisdiction over an Election Petition Appeal Tribunal statutorily created as a final court on Local Government Election matters? The Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment answered this question in the negative. The facts of the case are in the body of the judgment. In this appeal, the Edo State Local Government Electoral Law 2002 promulgated laws to be followed in the conduct of the Local Government Elections.

Section 34(1) states the grounds on which an election petition may be questioned and it says:- (a) That the person whose election was questioned was at the time of the election not qualified or was disqualified from being elected as a member of a council. (b) That the election was voided by corrupt practices or offences against the law. (c) That the respondent was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes at the election or  (d) That the petitioner was validly nominated but was unlawfully excluded from the election. Section 36(1) of Edo State Local Government Electoral Law 2002 provides that:

“An appeal shall lie to the High Court made up of three High Court Judges sitting as an Appeal Tribunal from the decisions of Local Government Council Election Tribunal established under this law on any grounds specified in Section 32 of this law or on any grounds specified in section 33 of this law or any question whether any person has been validly elected as chairman or any other member of a Local Government Councilor whether the seat of any such person has become vacant. 2. The time within which to appeal to the High Court sitting as an Appeal Tribunal shall be within one month of the decision of the Local Government Council Election Tribunal. 3. The decision of the High Court sitting as an Appeal Tribunal shall be final.

In resolving the issue formulated above the Supreme Court said that the intention of the law makers of that law is that all appeals against the decision of the Tribunal shall terminate at the Appeal Tribunal. No other court has the vires to review or sit on appeal over its decision thereafter. There is no provision in the Edo State Electoral Law 2002 to that effect. Moreover, there are reported cases to confirm that decisions of Election Tribunals cannot be interfered with by an order of certiorari. Professor De smith in his book Judicial Review of Administrative Action 4th Edition at page 384 emphasized that though order of certiorari and prohibition will issue against inferior courts, certiorari does not lie to an election court consisting of a High Court Judge trying a parliamentary election petition. In the case ofR V Election Court Gsp. Sheppard (1975) 1 WLR 1319 at page 1323 it was held that: “It is quite clear that the election court which deals with the parliamentary elections, consisting as it will do of a Queens Bench Judge, is a superior court and it is clear that no question of the prerogative order could be available there. In the case of ANPP v Returning Officer Abia State (2007) 11 NWLR PT.1045 Page 431, a recent decision of the Supreme Court at Page 434-435 this court said that: “Election matters are in a class of their own and are entirely statutory.

The writ of certiorari and mandamus being common law remedies cannot be involved in a purely election matter and where they are invoked, they cannot change the character of the matter as an election matter clearly belongs to the election tribunal and clearly outside the jurisdiction of the High Court”.

In summary the lower court came to the right conclusion on the point that the High Court of Edo State has no supervisory jurisdiction on an Election Petition Appeal Tribunal sitting as a final court in Election matters by virtue of the Edo State Local Government Electoral Law 2002. This court cannot interfere with Consequently, it is the conclusion of this court that the High Court of Edo State lacked the jurisdiction which it wrongly assumed in invoking a certiorari proceeding for the purpose of quashing the decisions of a Local Government Appeal Tribunal sitting as a final court over a Local Government Election matter. The proceeding is declared null and void and it is consequently struck out. The Appeal lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed. Judgment of the Lower Court is affirmed. N50,000.00 costs of this appeal is awarded in favour of the Respondents.

* Mr. I. E. Imadegbelo (SAN) with him K. O. Obamogie, U. Ufbom M. Eborgbe and S. O. Odiase for the Appellant.
Mr. Ken. Mozia for the 1 st Respondent 1. I. Akhigbe (Mrs.) for the 2nd Respondent Mr. I.M.C. Ohio (Ministry of Justice-Edo State) for the 3rd-12th Respondents.


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