Supreme Court Strikes Out Suit Challenging Buhari’s Re-election

    The Supreme Court on Thursday struck out the appeal filed by the presidential candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Ambrose Owuru, seeking nullification of President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election.

    The five-member Supreme Court panel, led by Mary Odili, struck out the appeal on the grounds that Mr Owuru and his party filed two notices of appeal on one matter contrary to the provisions of the law, which the apex court described as an abuse of court processes.
    The appellants (Mr Owuru and HDP) had challenged the decision of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which on August 22 dismissed their petition for want of competence.
    But the Supreme Court in its ruling on Thursday struck out the appeal for being unmeritorious and for constituting an abuse of court process.
    The court held that the failure of Mr Owuru and his party to appeal the August 22 ruling of the tribunal was fatal to their appeal.
    In a unanimous decision, the apex court upheld the objection raised by the three respondents in the suit and subsequently dismissed the appeal.
    The three respondents in the appeal are Mr Buhari, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressive Congress (APC).
    During the court session, Wole Olanipekun, the counsel representing Mr Buhari; Yunus Usman, counsel to INEC, and Lateef Fagbemi, the counsel to APC, in separate preliminary objections, asked the Supreme Court to strike out the appeal on the grounds that the appellants contravened the law by filing two notices of appeal in one matter.
    The three senior counsel drew the attention of the court to the first notice of appeal filed on August 28 and the second one filed on September 2, which were simultaneously used to formulate issues in the main appeal and which were predicated on different grounds.
    The first appeal has 12 grounds and the second, eight grounds.
    The respondents argued that the action of the appellants by the two notices of appeal constituted a gross abuse of the court process and aimed at irritating and annoying them.
    In his own notice of objection filed on September 16, Mr Fagbemi 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 the law was not challenged.
    Mr Fagbemi informed the tribunal that the petition relied upon by the appellants to come to the Supreme Court had been declared non-existent by the decision of Justice Mohammed Garba of the tribunal.
    He added that until the decision of the tribunal on the competence of the petition is challenged and set aside, the two appellants have no business coming to Supreme Court with an appeal on the tribunal’s judgment on the substantive petition.
    However, the counsel to the appellants, Isaac Udoka, made efforts to convince the apex court on why the two notices of appeal were filed in respect of one matter.
    Mr Udoka explained that the appellants were forced to do so because the presidential election petition tribunal did not release a clean copy of its August 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.
    Preliminary Objection ruling
    Delivering ruling on the preliminary objections by the respondents, Mrs Odili rejected the plea of the appellants that the second notice of appeal is used as a continuation of the first one.
    She added that apart from formulating different issues and grounds on the two offending notices of appeal, they were properly so titled as notice of appeal.
    Justice Odili 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.
    The Supreme Court also held the two appellants did not appeal the ruling of the tribunal which declared their petition incompetent, abuse of court 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.”
    Mrs Odili held that their appeal against the substantive judgment of the tribunal has no legs to stand upon.
    The court, therefore, upheld the objection of the respondents to the hearing of the appeal and consequently struck it out.
    The tribunal had in a separate ruling on August 22 dismissed the petition of Mr Owuru and HDP for not being in conformity with the position of the law and for being an abuse of court process.
    But in their appeal, the HDP and Mr Owuru asked the Supreme Court to void the presidential election of February 23 on the grounds that its postponement from February 16 by INEC was unconstitutional.
    They urged the apex court to declare them the winner of an alleged referendum election of February 16 by Nigerians, which they claimed to have won with over 50 million voice votes.
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