Law  

A law court is fundamentally competent when properly constituted – Part 2

JusticeIN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
HOLDEN AT ABUJA
ON TUESDAY, THE 20TH DAY OF OCTOBER, 2015
BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS
IBRAHIM T. MUHAMMAD
JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT MUHAMMADS.M.COOMASSIE
JUSTICE, SUPREMECOURT
OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR
JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
CLARA B. OGUNBIYI
JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
JOHN I. OKORO
JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
CHIMA C. NWEZE
JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
AMIRU SANUSI
JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

SC. 665/2015
BETWEEN:
MEGA PROGRESSIVE PEOPLES PARTY (MPPP)……………………………………………………..APPELLANT
AND
1.INDEPENDENTNATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC)
2. ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS (APC)
3. SENATOR IBIKUNLE AMOSUN
4. MRS. YETUNDE ONANUGA … RESPONDENTS

There is no doubt that a court of law is fundamentally competent when it is properly constituted. If a court is not properly constituted, when there is a defect in its membership then that court cannot be said to have been properly in place. It lacks jurisdiction to properly adjudicate. Whatever decision it reached is going to be a nullity. See: Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341. The Supreme Court had this to say and stated thus:-
“1. It is properly constituted as regards numbers and qualifications of the members of the bench and no member is disqualified for one reason or another, and
2.The subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction, and there is no feature in the case which prevents the court from exercising its jurisdiction; and;
3.The case comes before the court initiated by due process of law, and’ upon fulfillment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.”

That it cannot be right for one single judge to have considered a matter before the Governorship Election Tribunal sitting at Abeokuta, Ogun State or anywhere. It was chaired by Honourable Justice Henry A. Olusiyi J, no other judge or member or members sat with the chairman.

That because of the foregoing, the trial court was not properly constituted as regards membership. The relevant law says that tribunal be constituted with chairman and at least one member. Any other law, Act or regulations which say otherwise cannot be correct. The trial tribunal was improperly constituted when it considered and determined the petition brought to it. Whatever decision or decisions it reached is a nullity no matter how beautifully the decision was written. That trial court could have heeded the challenge and complaint of the Appellant’s counsel and it should have declined jurisdiction. The provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, by its Section 285 (4) no tribunal can be properly constituted with the chairman alone. All other laws or Act which provides that a chairman alone, without any member can sit and determine a petition is void for inconsistency.

That being the case, that the lower court in this appeal was not right in dismissing the appeal before it and affirming the decision of the trial court. The learned justices of the lower court, with respect, completely derailed.
That having gone through the submissions of all the Respondents, none of the Respondents ably addressed the issue of jurisdiction of the trial court. None of them had lawful answer to the appeal. Each and every Respondent agreed with the jurisdictional stance of the matter before the trial court. The issue is clear and strong, the fact that the matter was taken, tried and determined by the trial court with only the chairman without any member or members with him made the decision null and void.

That the Court of Appeal inadvertently took the appeal as such and delivered a unanimous decision, wrongly dismissing the appeal before it and affirmed the decision of the trial court. The lower court for the reason best known to them boldly ignored the correct submissions clearly stated by the Appellant herein. The chairman of the tribunal had no power to say and act on the fact that Paragraph 27(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 permitted him to determine such matter alone its Provisions are inconsistent with Section 285 (4) of the 1999 constitution as amended. It was void ab initio. It was ordered that this appeal should be remitted back to the Court of Appeal for it to reconstitute a different fresh panel to hear and determine the petition.
Appeal allowed.

JUDGMENT
This is an appeal by the Appellant, Mega Progressive Peoples Party, against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division delivered on the 27th day of August, 2015. In the Court of Appeal, hereinafter called the court below which dismissed the Appellant’s appeal and upheld the ruling of the Governorship Election Tribunal sitting at Abeokuta, Ogun State, chaired by Hon. Justice Henry Olusiyi, herein after referred to as “trial court”, which delivered its decision on the 10/7/2015. See Page 352 of the record of 35 proceedings. The trial court held thus: “This petition, having been filed outside the 21 days period prescribed by law, is incompetent and cannot be entertained beyond this stage by this Tribunal as so doing will tantamount to embarking on a wild goose chase and a worthless pursuit.” The Chairman of the Tribunal further held that, “the lone issue for determination, as formulated by the Tribunal, is resolved in the affirmative, in favour of all the Respondents/Applicants. There is considerable merit in each of the applications of the 1st Respondent, 2nd Respondent and the 3rd and fourth Respondents. Each of the Applications (sic) succeeds on the ground of limitation of time, and is accordingly granted. The petition coded EPT/ GOV/ABK/002/2015, filed on 4/5/2015, is hereby struck out for being incurably incompetent.”
Being aggrieved by the decision of the above Tribunal the petitioner/Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal Ibadan Division on the following seven grounds of appeal. They are hereby reproduced without their particulars:-

Ground One
The trial tribunal erred in law when it heard and determined in limine the Respondents’ objective to the Appellants petition, having regards to the provisions of Paragraph 12(5) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010, (as amended) by Section 38 (c) of the Electoral (amended) Act 2010.

Ground Two
The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Ogun State misdirected itself when it chose not to give priority to the latest amendment of the First Schedule to theElectoral Act, 2010, (as amended) by Section 38 (c) of the Electoral (amended) Act 2010.
Ground Three The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal erred in law
by not allowing the petition to go on full trial in-spite of the contention on the date the 2015 Governorship Election was declared in Ogun State by the parties in the petition to establish the truth.
Ground Four The honourable tribunal erred in law in distinguishing and
refusing to follow the case of Alhaji Gbadamosi Kabir & Ors v. Action Congress & 238 Ors. (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 647) at Pages 687-659 CA, paras E – H.

Ground Five The honourable tribunal erred in law by allowing the
Respondents to bring an objection to the Appellant’s petition using two procedures which was not provided for in the Electoral Act in Re: PDP v. INEC 85 ORS (2012) 2 S.C. (Pt. III) 1.
Ground Six The honourable tribunal erred in law when it failed to
properly distinguish the case of Omisore v. Aregbesola (2015) 5-6 S.C. (Pt. III) 1, delivered 27/5/2015 and the Appellant’s petition in resolving the computation of time.
Ground Seven The Tribunal misdirected itself where it held on the Page
16 of the ruling that only the presentation of form EC8E that could be used to prove the result of an election.

The court below in my view considered relevant issues presented before them though it has gone a little bit astray and in 35 a considered judgment held thus:-
“It is instructive to note that even if the last date for filing the election petition had fallen on a Sunday as was asserted by the Appellant, the provisions of the Interpretation Act cannot be applied to move the grace date to the Monday following, as was contended by learned counsel for the Appellant. In the case of Okechukwu v. INEC (2014) 9 S.C. 1), the Supreme Court, per Ariwoola, JSC., at Page 31, Paragraph 5, succinctly said that: the interpretation Act may not apply strictly in the computation of time in the filing of processes. Ngwuta, JSC., in his contributory opinion at Page 66 Paragraph 30-35, was even more direct thus:-

“Election petitions are distinct from civil proceedings, see Obeh v. Mbakwe (1984) 1 1 S.C. (Reprint) 246. An election matter is time bound and any provision relating to time must be strictly applied. It does not permit a resort to Interpretation Act.”
In the recent case of Omisore v. Aregbesola (2015) 5-6 S.C. (Pt. III) 1, the Supreme Court, per C. C. Nweze, JSC, relying on the earlier case of Okechukwu v. INEC (supra) unequivocally said at Page 79 Paragraph 5 of the judgment:
“The simple answer is that the said Interpretation Act is inapplicable to this matter being an election matter, Okechukwu v. INEC and Ors (supra).”

Interestingly, Section 15(4) and (5) of the Interpretation Act provides that where an enactment provides for an act which does not exceed six days, holidays shall be left out of account in computing the period. The holiday would mean sundays and public holidays. Twenty one days by far exceed six days it goes without saying. The Interpretation Act, if applicable, would therefore not even have availed the Appellant.

In all, this appeal has been shown to be completely without merit. The issues raised for determination having all been resolved against the Appellants, the appeal fails and is hereby dismissed. The ruling of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting at Abeokuta, Ogun State, chaired by Hon. Justice Henry A. Olusiyi, J., delivered on July 10, 2015 is hereby affirmed.”
Thus the court below affirmed the decision of the Tribunal which was delivered on July, 2015 by Olusiyi, J.
The leading judgment of the court below was prepared and read by Onyekachi Aja Otisi, JCA., and unanimously agreed to by other learned Justices on the panel.

The Appellant being dissatisfied, again, with the decision of the court below, further appealed to the Supreme Court on a notice of appeal containing three grounds of appeal. They are reproduced hereunder without their particulars.
Ground One The lower court erred in law when it affirmed the ruling of
the Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State (chairman: honourable justice Henry A. Olusiyi) delivered on 10/ 7/2015, which was made without jurisdiction as the tribunal was not properly constituted to hear and determine the consolidated applications which culminated in the ruling of the tribunal.

Ground Two The lower court erred in law when it refused and failed to
consider and apply its decision in the case of Kabir v. Action Congress (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 647) CA 638 at 657-658 Paragraphs D-A, pp. 670 – 673, Paragraphs E – B and the decision of this honourable court in the case of P. D. P. v. C. P. C (2011) 10 S.C. 53, Ratio 6, Particularly 50, Paragraphs 25-35, in computing and determining the final day for the filing of the Appellant’s petition when the 21 day period constitutionally deis non juridicus, that is, a non- juridical day.

Ground Three The lower court erred in law when it considered the 3rd and
4th Respondents’ brief of argument dated and filed on 12/08/2015, 20 which was incompetent, null and void as same was filed out of time without any subsisting order of the lower court extending time for the 3rd and 4th Respondent which to do so.
Parties and their respective counsel filed and exchanged briefs of argument. The Appellant adopted his brief of argument which contains three (3) issues.
1. Whether the chairman of the trial court, sitting alone, had the jurisdiction to have heard and determined the Respondents’ consolidated applications that gave rise to the ruling of the trial court delivered on 10/7/2015 (this issue is distilled from Ground 1 of the Appellant’s notice of appeal).
2. Whether the lower was right when it failed to consider its decision in the case of Kabir v. Action Congress (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 647) CA. 638 at pp. 657-658, Paragraphs D- A, pp 670 673, Paragraphs E-B and PDP v. CPC (2011) 10 S.C. 53, in computing and determining the final day for the filing of the Appellant’s petition. (This issue is distilled from Ground 2 of the Appellant’s notice of appeal). Whether the lower court was right when it considered the 3rd and 4th Respondents’ brief of argument which was filed out of time by virtue of the decision of this honourable court in Omisore & Anor. v. Aregbesola, (2015) 5-6 S.C. (Pt. III) 1. (This issue is distilled from Ground 3 of the Appellant’s notice of appeal). 20
The learned counsel for the 1st Respondent, A. Kayode, formulated one lone issue thus:- “The 1st Respondent humbly submits that the lone issue for determination of this appeal is:- “Whether the courts below were right or wrong in their concurrent decisions dismissing the Appellant’s petition on the ground that same which was filed outside the prescribed 21 days, from the date when the results of the election was announced, is time barred.”

Arguments
The Appellant contended that the chairman of the trial court had no jurisdiction to have heard and determined the Respondents’ consolidated applications that gave rise to the ruling of the trial court delivered on 10/07/2015. It is his submission that the trial court had no jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter as the trial court was not properly constituted to do so. He further submitted that the trial court lacked jurisdiction at all to entertain the matter before it. He continued to submit that jurisdiction is a fundamental, intrinsic and threshold issue – and once raised, the court has to determine same before proceedings to any other thing. He cited in support the case of A.G., Anambra State v. A.G. Federation (2007) 5-6 S.C. 192.
It is clear that the issue of jurisdiction, counsel continues, can be raised at any stage because of importance, it can be raised at any stage and manner, even for the first time on appeal before the Supreme Court without seeking leave.
(a) Access Bank Plc. v. G. L.O Consult (2009) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1156) 534 CA.
(b) Nuhu v. Ogele (2003) 12 S.C. (Pt. I) 32. I also agree that issue of Jurisdiction can also be raised suo moto by this Hon. court i.e Supreme Court.
(c) Nasir v. C.S.C, Kano State (2010) 1-2 S.C. 65.

Learned counsel referred to the decision of this court as depicted in the judgment of Hon. Justice Tanko Muhammad, JSC., at 196 Paragraphs A -D, thus:-
“It is trite that the issue of jurisdiction by whatever name and under any shade can be raised at any stage. It can be raised viva voce or the court can raise it suo motu, see also Onyia v. Oniah (1989) 2 S.C. (Pt. I) 69. See also A.G., Oyo State v. Fairlakes Hotel Ltd. (1988) 12 S.C. 1.”
My lords, the issue of jurisdiction is over and above any legal manipulation. It has to be neatly observed and acted upon, whether it was raised in any ground of appeal or not. The jurisdiction, I can boldly state, is a question of law which can be mentioned and raised for the first time in appellate courts or even this court. It is also clear that there is no need for any leave of any court, sought and obtained, before it could be said to have been properly raised. No matter in what manner it was raised, it can lawfully be raised as a fresh issue on appeal. There is no doubt that a court of law is fundamentally competent when it is properly constituted. If a court is not properly constituted, when there is a defect in its membership then that court cannot be said to have been properly in place. It lacks jurisdiction to properly adjudicate. Whatever decision it reached is going to be a nullity. See Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SC NLR 341. This court has this to say and stated thus:-
“1. It is properly constituted as regards numbers and qualifications of the members of the bench and no member is disqualified for one reason or another, and
2. The subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction, and there is no feature in the case which prevents the court from exercising its jurisdiction; and;
3. The case comes before the court initiated by due process of law, and’ upon fulfillment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.”

Learned counsel for the Appellant urged this court to hold that the trial court was not properly constituted when the matter before it was tried and determined by the chairman of the tribunal alone.
Without having lengthy discussions and analysis of the matter, I wish to state as follows:- Having considered all the illuminating authorities above can it be right for one single judge to have considered a matter before the Governorship Election Tribunal sitting at Abeokuta, Ogun State or anywhere. It was chaired by Honourable Justice Henry A. Olusiyi J, no other judge or member or members sat with the chairman.

My lords, it is in a nutshell, that the trial court was not properly constituted as regards membership. The relevant law says that tribunal be constituted with chairman and at least one member.
Any other law, Act or regulations which says otherwise cannot be correct. It is my view without much ado, that the trial tribunal was improperly constituted when it considered and determined the petition brought to it. Whatever decision or decisions it reached is a nullity no matter how beautifully the decision was written. That trial court could have heeded the challenge and complaint of the Appellant’s counsel and it should have declined jurisdiction. The provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, by its Section 285 (4) no tribunal can be properly constituted with the chairman alone. All other laws or Act which provides that a chairman alone, without any member can sit and determine a petition is void for inconsistency.

That being the case, the lower court in this appeal cannot be right in dismissing the appeal before it and affirming the decision of the trial court. The learned justices of the lower court, with respect, completely derailed. The appeal therefore deserved to be allowed on this issue one without more.

I have carefully gone through the submissions of all the Respondents and I hold that none of the Respondents ably addressed the issue of jurisdiction of the trial court. None of them had lawful answer to the appeal. Each and every Respondent agreed with the jurisdictional stance of the matter before the trial court.

The issue is clear and strong, the fact that the matter was taken, tried and determined by the trial court with only the chairman without any member or members with him made the decision null and void. This is a fact which cannot be altered.
The Court of Appeal, hereinafter called the lower court, inadvertently took the appeal as such and delivered a unanimous decision, wrongly dismissing the appeal before it and affirmed the decision of the trial court. The lower court for the reason best known to them, boldly ignored the correct submissions clearly stated by Omereonye Morgans Esq., learned counsel for the Appellant herein. The chairman of the tribunal has no power to say and act on the fact that Paragraph 7 of the Electoral Act permitted him to determine such matter alone its Provisions are inconsistent with Section 285 (4) of the 1999 constitution as amended. It is void ab initio.

After considering the briefs of all the Respondents, I read thoroughly the Ground 1 of the Appellants appeal together with the 1st issue distilled by the Appellant in his brief and I hold that the 1st Issue is capable, in law, in disposing of this appeal. There is no further pressing need to visit and analyse the remaining two issues left. That is to say issue one is enough to dispose of the entire appeal
20 and I so hold. Issue one is hereby resolved in favour of the Appellant and this court grants all the avoidance of any possible doubt, is allowed. Issues two and three therefore become academic. I order that this appeal shall be remitted back to the Court of Appeal for it to reconstitute a different fresh panel to hear and determine the petition forthwith.
I. T. MUHAMMAD, JSC.: My learned brother, Muntaka- Coomassie, JSC, afforded me the opportunity to read in advance, the judgment just delivered. My learned brother has, ably, set out the salient facts of the case and counsel’s relevant submissions. It is unnecessary for me to repeat same. In agreeing with my learned brother, I find it pertinent to say a word or two on Appellant’s issue one of the issues for determination. The issue is on whether the chairman of the trial (“court”) tribunal had the Jurisdiction to hear and determine, while sitting alone, Respondents’ consolidated applications that gave rise to the ruling of the tribunal of 10th July, 2015.

As captured in the leading judgment, the following processes were filed before the tribunal on different dates by the Respondents.
a. First Respondent’s motion on notice (undated) filed on 15th June, 2015;
b. Second Respondent’s motion on notice dated 13th May, 2015 and filed on 14th May. 2015;
c. Third and fourths Respondent’s motion on notice dated and filed on 14th May, 2015.
These motions were consolidated, taken together and determined single handedly by the chairman of the tribunal alone. It is my belief, My Lords, that a very important spring board of starting my consideration of this appeal is from Page 260 of the record of appeal. It was on a Friday (19th June 2015) when the tribunal sat with full coram consisting of the chairman and two other members of the tribunal. After taking appearances of learned senior and other counsel for the respective parties, below is what transpired: “Fagbemi: Akinsola: Osipitan:
We have two of the motion (Sic) listed for hearing today. We are ready.

We are also ready. We have two applications. Fagbemi: Oyeniyi: Akinsola: Fagbemi: Tribunal: My application is dated 10/6/2015 and filed on 15/6/2015. They are in (Sic) the same subject matter. They both target the same thing. We suggest that both should be heard together.
Our own application is dated and filed on 10/6/2015. It is similar to the other ones referred to. It is rape for hearing. I align with my learned senior’s suggestion.
We concede.
We have agreed on 1/7/2015.
Application for adjournment is granted. All the motions so far filed in this petition, i.e EPT/GON/ABK/002/2015, are adjourned to Wednesday, July 1, 2015, for definite hearing by God’s grace.
SGD Hon. Justice H. A. Olusiyi Chairman 19/6/2015
SGD Hon. Justice M.A. Sadeq
Member 19/6/2015
SGD Hon. Justice A. O. U. Usman
Member 2 19/6/2015

Sitting of the tribunal resumed on the 3’ day of July, 2015. Full coram of the tribunal was indicated at the beginning of that
MPPP v. INEC & 3 ORS. -23- (Muhammad, JSC.) (2015) 10-11 S.C. (Pt. I)
day’s sitting. Pre-election sessions commenced. After recording appearances, the following proceedings followed: “Coram: Full tribunal for the pre-hearing session. However, only the Chairman shall take interlocutory applications.”
Learned counsel went ahead to move their various motions. There were arguments as to whether the tribunal should consider applications challenging the competence of the tribunal at pre- hearing stage. Fagbemi, SAN., drew attention of the tribunal: “We have gone past the stage of agreement as to which motions should come first. The tribunal has already ruled that all applications will be taken in the pre-hearing session. Your Lordship cannot sit on appeal over its (Sic) own ruling….”
The tribunal ruled: “I have carefully considered the submissions of learned counsel on the issue of whether the applications challenging the competence of the petition should be heard now or not. 1 agree entirely with the submissions of learned counsel for the .1st Respondent, learned counsel for the 2nd Respondent and the submissions of learned senior counsel for the 3rd and 4th Respondents that they should be heard and determined at this pre- hearing session…………………. There is no better time to take the applications challenging the competence of the petition than now…………The applications in question shall be taken now.
SGD H. A. OLUSIYI
JUDGE CHAIRMAN 3/7/2015.”

Learned senior counsel and other counsel for the respective parties proceeded to make their submissions.
On the 10th of July, 2015. ruling was delivered by Olusiyi, J. It was held, inter alia, as follows: “The lone issue for determination as formulated by the tribunal, is resolved in the affirmative, in favour of all the Respondents/Applicants. There is considerable merit in each of the applications of the 1st Respondent, 2nd Respondent. Each of the applications succeeds on the ground of limitation of time, and is accordingly granted.
The petition coded EPT/GON/ABK/002/2015, filed on 4/5/2015, is hereby struck out for being incurably incompetent.
SGD ILA. OLUSIYI JUDGE CHAIRMAN 10/7/2015.”

It is to be observed, your Lordships, that on the 16/6/15, when the tribunal sat for the first time, a full coram was constituted and the coram entertained and granted an application by learned counsel for the petitioner, Kayode Akinsola, Esq, for him and for any counsel of the Respondents who so desired to inspect the polling or electoral documents. The ruling was signed by the tribunal
MPPP v. INEC & 3 ORS. -25- (Muhammad, JSC.) (2015) 10-11 S.C. (Pt. I)

chairman and two members of the tribunal. Equally, when all the motions were adjourned to July 1st for a definite hearing, the full coram was reflected and the ruling was signed by the chairman and the other two members of the tribunal. When the motions were to be heard, the names of the chairman and the two members were reflected on top page of that day’s proceedings. When the motions were to be taken and determined, the following was recorded.
“Coram: Full tribunal for the pre-hearing session. However, only the chairman shall take interlocutory applications.” (Underlining for emphasis)

Thus, the chairman went ahead to hear and determine all the applications. At the end (i.e on 10/7/2015), he granted the applications and consequently, struck out the petition. He signed and dated the ruling alone in his capacity as the chairman of the tribunal. The court below, on appeal to it affirmed the tribunal’s decision.
Now, the challenge posed by the Petitioner/Appellant is encapsulated in issue one of the three issues he formulated in his brief of argument, to which I referred to earlier.

It is Appellant’s learned counsel’s submission that the trial tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear and determine the Respondents’ consolidated applications that gave rise to its ruling delivered on July, 2015, as the trial tribunal was not properly constituted to do so as it was constituted by only a single member of the three man Governorship Election Tribunal sitting at Abeokuta, Ogun State, to wit: Hon. Justice Henry A. Olusiyi. This is a jurisdictional issue which is in disregard and in non compliance with the mandatory 35 provision of Section 285(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). This, learned counsel for the Appellant said, occasioned a miscarriage of justice to the Appellant. He supported his submissions with a lot or decided authorities. He urges this court to hold that the proceedings were incompetent, null and void ab initio and liable to be set aside.

I carefully beamed my search light on all Respondents’ several briefs in order to afford me have a glimpse of a satisfying strong and pungent answer/answers but I was taken aback. I was amazed by the contradicting submissions and complete evasion of the all important first issue raised by the Appellant. The first Respondent, for instance decided to raise a single issue on whether the Courts below were right or wrong in their concurrent decisions in dismissing the Appellants petition on the ground that same was filed outside the prescribed 21 days when the results were announced. He made several submissions on jurisdiction. It is only in Paragraph 4.4 of his brief that the learned, SAN., for the 1st Respondent (on the brief of argument) made the following submissions in respect of the ruling of the tribunal: Earlier on, however, in Paragraphs 4.2 and 4.3, the learned SAN., had alluded to the trite position of the Law that the issue of Jurisdiction is fundamental and can be raised at any stage of the proceedings at any time and even for the first time on appeal and, or, even suo mote. He cited the decisions in Akere v. Governor of “4.4.

Furthermorethereisawellconsideredruling of the tribunal on the issue of number of members of the tribunal who can hear the objection. There is no appeal against that decision. Appellant is therefore estopped from raising the issue of composition of the tribunal which heard the objection and dismissed Appellant’s claim.” Oyo State (2012) 5-6 S.C. 1; Lastma v. Ezezoobo (2012) 3 NWLR (Pt 1286) 49 at 57E CA.

The second Respondent did not help matters either. Learned counsel for the 2nd Respondent made submissions on his lone issue on the striking out of the petition of the Appellant as it was filed out of time prescribed by Section 285(5) of the Constitution.
On Issue Number 1 canvassed by the Appellant, learned counsel’s contention is that being an issue of jurisdiction, it never arose from the decision of the court below, nor was it raised or argued before the tribunal or the court below; nor did the Appellant seek the leave of the court below to so raise and argue same. Learned counsel contended further that the chairman of the tribunal pursuant to Paragraph 27(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) sat alone in the determination of the consolidated interlocutory applications of the various Respondents which led to the striking out of the petition which is the subject matter of this appeal. Learned senior counsel for the 20 3rd and 4th Respondents (on the brief of argument) Prince L. O. Fagbemi, SAN., formulated a lone issue for determination.

The issue is as well, on whether the petition was validly and competently dismissed on account of its incompetence occasioned by limitation of time. He too, dwelt deeply in his submission on this issue. He concedes that the position of the law has always been that jurisdictional issues and matters in any proceedings including the present appeal can be raised at any stage of any particular proceedings and as early as possible. He cited several decisions of this court. He argued that it would not be open to the Appellant to contend or agitate the puerile case that the trial tribunal sitting in Abeokuta was not properly constituted or that it was itself bereft of requisite jurisdiction to consider the clear case before it in the entire circumstances of this appeal. The learned, SAN., submitted further that the Appellant, apart from not raising any jurisdiction to contest the supposed jurisdiction of the trial tribunal before the tribunal itself, did not raise the issue as fresh one at the lower court of Appeal sitting at Ibadan nor has he sought to obtained any leave of the said lower court of appeal or this honourable court to so raise it.

I think it did not lie in the mouths of the Respondents to say that Appellant did not apply for leave to raise issue of jurisdiction. Appellant’s application of 176 September was duly served on all the Respondents. Counter-affidavits thereof, were filed by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents. In both counter-affidavits it was deposed to that no issue of jurisdiction or other “serious and fundamental issue of law” were raised in Exhibit 2 (notice of appeal dated 4th September, 2015). (See Paragraph 5 (ii) of the 2nd Respondent’s counter affidavit of 25/9/2015 and Paragraph 3 (i) of the 3rd and 4th Respondents’ counter-affidavit of 28/9/ 2015). Certainly, if there was no application to that effect, the Respondents could not have responded by filing counter affidavits. It was this application that was considered by the court on the 12’ day of October. Same was granted which paved the way for hearing the appeal.

Now, election tribunals are, generally, established under Section 285 (1) and (2) of the Constitution. The composition of such tribunals is spelt out in Section 285(3) of the Constitution. Section 285(4) provides for the coram of such tribunals. For the avoidance of about, the two subsections read as follows:
“285(3) The composition of the national and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal and the Governorship election tribunal respectively, shall Be as set out in the six schedule to this Constitution.
(4) Thequorumofanelectionestablished tribunal under this Section shall be the chairman and one other member.” (Underlining for emphasis)

The sixth scheduled of the Constitution referred to in Section 285(3) of the Constitution, part B thereof provides:
“2 (1) A Governorship Election Tribunal shall consist of a chairman and two other members.
(2) Thechairmanwhoshallbeajudgeof high court and two other members shall be appointed from among judges 20 of a high court, Kadis of Shari’a Court of Appeal or members of the judiciary not below the rank of a chief magistrate.”
Thus, the composition and quorum



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