⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Abimbola Daramola v. Wale Aribisala & Anor (2009) – CA
by NSA PaulPipAr
⦿ AREA OF LAW
- Election petition.
- Statute barred.
- Declaration of result.
- Rules of interpretation.
- Ratio decidendi.
- Public holiday.
- Wale Aribisala
- Independent National Electoral Commission
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Chima Centus Nweze, J.C.A.
- FOR THE APPELLANT
- R. O. Balogun.
- FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Bamidele Omotoso.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
On April 21, 2007, the appellant who was the petitioner at the National Assembly/Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Petition Tribunal sitting at Ado Ekiti contested election for the Ekiti North Federal Constituency. While he was sponsored by the Action Congress, the first respondent was sponsored by the People’s Democratic Party.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election in which the first respondent was declared the winner, the appellant [petitioner as he then was] filed a petition at the said National Assembly/Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Petition Tribunal sitting at Ado Ekiti, [subsequently to be referred to as the lower tribunal]. Pleadings were duly settled and exchanged.
In the course of the actual hearing of the petition, the first respondent beseeched the lower tribunal with a notice of preliminary objection. In it, he canvassed the question of the competence of the tribunal to entertain the petition which, he alleged, was not filed within thirty days of the declaration of the results as stipulated in section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2006. Again dissatisfied with the outcome of the ruling which upheld the first respondent’s objection, the petitioner [now the appellant] has appealed to this court.
- Was the lower tribunal right in holding that the provisions of the Interpretation Act are inapplicable to the provisions of section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2006, in the computation of time for the presentation of an election petition?
- Was the said tribunal right in not following the authority of Yusuf v. Obasanjo and the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2000 in the computation of time for the presentation of an election of election petition under the Electoral Act, 2006?
- Was the tribunal right in its finding that the petition was filed one day out of time when the last day fell on a Sunday?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
- ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENTS.
i. The petition should have been presented within thirty days counting from April 21, when from exhibit E, the results were declared. I agree with Omotoso, learned counsel for the first respondent, that the thirty days’ period ended on May 20, 2007. In effect, the lower tribunal was right in striking out the petition which was filed outside the thirty days allowed by section 141 (supra).
ii. A reference to their lexical meanings will clarify this point. The preposition “from” is defined as a function word which is used to indicate a starting point; in reckoning or in a statement of limits, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary page 494. The second preposition “within” is also a function word. It is used to indicate the situation or circumstance in the limits or compass of [a thing or the happening of an event] or not beyond the limitation of[time], Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary page 1355. Taken together, these two prepositions employed in section 141 (supra) come to this: the thirty days’ period for the presentation of an election petition begins to count from the date of the declaration of the results. Above all, the presentation can only take place during the continuance of the thirty days starting from that date election results were declared.
- ISSUE 2 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. Only recently, this division of the court was saddled with the task of determining what the ratio decidendi in Yusuf v Obasanjo (supra) could be said to be. That was in Kupolati and Anor v Oke and Ors [Appeal No CA/IL/EP/HA/12/2008, unreported judgment delivered on April 3, 2009]. In this appeal, we are, once more, required to determine the same question. Just as in the earlier case, the appellant herein has put the question: whether the lower tribunal was right in not following the decision in the said Yusuf v Obasanjo (supra). In concurrence with my learned brother Agube JCA, who wrote the leading judgement in the above appeal, I answered the question in the affirmative. I have no reason, in the present appeal, to depart from the eloquent reasoning on my noble Lord in that case. I, equally, have no justifiable reason for modifying my concurrence in that case. I shall adopt my position in that contribution as my judgment in this issue.
ii. In all, since Tobi JSC’s judgement (in Yusuf v. Obasanjo) was concerned only with the issue of the limitation of time for amendments, I do not see how the lower tribunal could, justifiably, be pilloried for not anchoring its judgement on that case. The decision in the case [that is, Yusuf v Obasanjo] was inapplicable to the issue before the lower tribunal. After all, the ratio decidendi of cases eventuates from their material facts.
- ISSUE 3 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. The short answer to this issue, therefore, is that under section 1 and the Schedule to the Public Holidays Act (supra), Sunday is not listed as one of the days to be observed as a public holiday. In the computation of the time for the presentation of an election petition under section 141 of the Electoral Act (supra), Sunday will, therefore, not be reckoned with as a public holiday and cannot be discounted in the said computation of time.
ii. In his anxiety to satiate the public interest, the law maker, in paragraph 25(2) of the first Schedule to the Electoral Act, even provides that hearing of petitions may be “continued on a Sunday or on a public Holiday if circumstances dictate”. Thus, the lower tribunal did not require any further administrative directives from the President of this Court to continue with the business of the tribunal if the circumstances dictated that it should do so.
- S. 294(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
- S. 141 of the Electoral Act 2006.
- Public Holidays Act, Chapter P40, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
Karibi-Whyte JSC in Savanah Bank of Nigeria Ltd v P.A.S.T.A. Ltd (1987) 1 SC 198, 278279, for example, offered the following invaluable guides: In determining the ratio decidendi of a case, it is safer to consider the claim before the court and the issue which the court was called upon to decide. Thus, the reasons given by the court for deciding the claim before it is the ratio decidendi which the court is obliged to follow in subsequent cases and will not lightly depart from unless to avoid the perpetuation of errors … Accordingly, opinions in the judgment which are not part of the material facts even where relevant to the determination of the case do not constitute part of the ratio decidendi and are not binding …
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
It is settled that in interpreting statutes that contain lucid, precise and unambiguous provisions, no interpretative guides are required. The court has only one duty, namely, to give effect to the ordinary meaning of the words employed in the statute. – Chima Centus Nweze, JCA. Abimbola v. Wale (2009)
The expressive or eloquent rationale for the rule on interpreting lucid and unambiguous words of a statute must also be noted. The explanation of the rule is simple: words and expressions employed in a statute communicate the intention of the lawmaker. So, courts are enjoined to primarily employ the expressions used in a statute in a manner consistent with their popular usage or meaning. To this end, a Judge must be meticulous about the grammar or syntax which underscores the construction of the enactment. – Chima Centus Nweze, JCA. Abimbola v. Wale (2009)
Instructively, the weight of the majority of judicial opinions of this court elicited from appeals, where the main issues for determination turned squarely on the interpretation of section 141 (supra), preponderates in favour of the view that it is an autonomous or self-governing section whose provisions are clear and unambiguous. As such, it does not admit of any external aid for its interpretation. – Chima Centus Nweze, JCA. Abimbola v. Wale (2009)
What is more, the roots of the irrefragable premise of this logic are firmly embedded in constitutional jurisprudence. In the first place, it is the Constitution, the most fundamental law in Nigeria, which originated the idea of time frames in respect of the tenure of the elective political offices to which election matters are tied. Thus, for the effectuation of this irreversible constitutional time frame, the factor of expeditious disposal of election petitions makes it imperative that time must be reckoned with. Indeed, anything short of that may even amount to sabotage against the raison detre for inaugurating periodic elections into elective offices in a constitutional democracy such as ours. – Chima Centus Nweze, JCA. Abimbola v. Wale (2009)
Above all, it is a well-known fact that words are the tools which a Judge utilises in the application of his professional expertise. Hence, nobody can justifiably impugn his ability to construe the grammar and syntax in a statute. In effect, every Judge is an expert in the grammar and syntax of the language of statutes. – Chima Centus Nweze, JCA. Abimbola v. Wale (2009)
After all, the ratio decidendi of cases eventuates from their material facts. – Chima Centus Nweze, JCA. Abimbola v. Wale (2009)
In the first place, as shown above where there are general provisions on any matter and specific provisions on that same matter , the applicable rule of interpretation should be that expressed in the old Latin maxim, generalibus specialia derogant [special provisions derogate from general provisions], see, Schroder v Major (1989) 2 SCNJ 210. In this case, the Public Holidays Act is the enactment that specifically deals with the subject of public holidays in Nigeria. The draftsperson, in his wisdom, itemised the days to be observed as public holidays. This, we have pointed out before. – Chima Centus Nweze, JCA. Abimbola v. Wale (2009)