By: Valentine Adese and Ifeanyi Okonkwo
On the 13th of April, 2016, the Federal High Court (FHC) sitting in Jos, the Plateau State capital had refused the All Progress Congress (APC) from joining suit No: FHC/J/CS/6/2016, a matter between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Not being satisfied with the ruling, report has it that APC has approached the Court of Appeal, Jos Division. Owing to the appeal, the APC has also approached the FHC with its application for a Stay of Proceedings in suit No: FHC/J/CS/6/2016.
Among the 8 grounds of the APC application for joinder are that:
1. The Plaintiff’s candidate filed an appeal against the decision of the Tribunal that disqualified him but, the appeal was dismissed and the judgment of the Tribunal affirmed and ordered a fresh election in 90 days.
2. The defendant rescheduled the election for the 20/2/2016, and the Plaintiff filed this suit seeking the determination of some questions based on the effect of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
3. The Applicant is a beneficiary of the Judgment of the Court of Appeal, the effect of which the Plaintiff has approached this court to determine.
4. The defendant postponed the election fixed for 20/02/2016, on the basis of this suit filed by the Plaintiff.
5. The Applicant and her candidate are candidates at the rescheduled election and they have their interest to protect as interested party.
Filed in support of the Application is an affidavit of 20 paragraphs, deposed to by W. L Jemcwat (Esq), a Legal Practitioner in the firm of S.S. Obende & Co.
You would recall that, two of the reliefs sought by the PDP in its Originating Summons filed at the FHC, is for the Court to: “Declare that by virtue of the combine provisions of Sections 40, 221, and 222, of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which amongst other things guarantees the right of registered political parties in Nigeria to canvass for votes for any candidate at any election, the Plaintiff as a registered political party in Nigeria is entitled to participate and canvass votes, present and sponsor its candidate in any election and in particular, the rerun to be conducted for the seat of Member representing Langtang South Constituency of Plateau State to hold on 20th February, 2016, or any other scheduled date for the said election.” And
“To also declare that having participated in the election for the seat of Member representing Langtang South Constituency in the general election of 11th April, 2015, the Plaintiff as a registered political party in Nigeria, the Plaintiff has the Constitutional right to and is entitled to participate and canvass for votes, present and sponsor its candidate and have the name and logo of the Plaintiff included on the ballot papers in any election and in particular, the rerun election for the seat of member representing Langtang South Constituency of Plateau State to hold on 20th February, 2016 or at any other scheduled date for the said election.”
Ruling on the Application for Joinder, the FHC presided over by Hon. Justice D. V. Agishi stated in part as follows:
“looking at the above reliefs sought, the sum total of what the plaintiff is asking this Honourable Court to do for them is inclusion in the rerun exercise for the seat of member representing Langtang South Constituency of Plateau State. According to the Plaintiff it has a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT as a registered political party to participate and canvass for votes, present and sponsor its candidate and have the name and logo of the plaintiff included on the Ballot Papers in the election sought to be held.
“The question is, does it take a joinder of the Applicant in this suit for the Plaintiff to be included in a rerun election?
“My answer is certainly in the negative. The Order being sought by the plaintiff solely affects the Defendant (INEC). The defendant does not need the joinder of the Applicant to do its duties. The defendant as I understand is the umbrella body that co-ordinates electoral processes for the political parties, that includes having the name and logo of political parties on the Ballot Papers and conducting elections as the case may be into state and federal constituencies.
“As rightly held in the case of Green vs. Green (Supra) and Babayeju vs. Ashumu (Supra) a necessary party must go beyond a show of interest in the matter. But he must show that the question to be settled in the action between the existing parties cannot be settled unless he is made a party to the action instituted by the plaintiff.
“In my opinion however the Applicant has not shown that the question to be settled between the plaintiff and the defendant cannot be settled without his joinder. Or that the controversy in the action cannot be effectively and completely settled unless he is made a party.
“It would have been different if the plaintiff intended in its action to stop the election in that constituency. Therefore, as I stated earlier, the Applicant has not satisfied the Court the he is a necessary party who must be joined in the suit…….”
“Again, I think the Applicant is having erroneous impression concerning the Judgment of the Court of Appeal and misinterpreting same in the Judgment delivered by the Appellate Court, the candidate of the Plaintiff was disqualified but the plaintiff itself was not disqualified or barred from participating in the rerun election.
“Therefore the Applicant’s argument that the Judgment of this Court will affect that of the Appellate Court is fundamentally wrong. It is also my belief that the Judgment of the Appellate Court is being misinterpreted by the Applicant and his candidate Mr. Jackson Ponchi Danladi…… ”
“From the foregoing, I therefore hold that the Applicant is not a necessary party, and that this action can be effectively and completely determined without joining it as a party to the suit. Motion for Joinder is hereby dismissed.”