⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Senator Abraham Ade Adesanya v. President Of The Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor. (1981) – SC
- Senator Abraham Ade Adesanya
- President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria
- The Hon. Justice Victor Ovie-whiskey
(1981) All N.L.R 1;
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
- FOR THE APPELLANT
- Chief Gani Fawehinmi
- FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Chief Akinjide, SAN
This is an appeal from the Federal Court of Appeal which declared the Appellant as lacking the requisite locus standi to institute this action.
The case is that the Appellant, a member of the Senate, is challenging the appointment of the 2nd respondent as the Chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission. It is to be noted that the 2nd respondent is a Chief Judge of the Bendel State High Court at this time. The Appellant is claiming that the 2nd respondent cannot be a Chief Judge and the Chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission at the same time.
This matter has been brought before the Supreme Court for determination.
- Whether or not Senator Adesanya has the locus standi to institute this action?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
- On ISSUE 1, the Supreme Court held in favour of the respondent. It concluded that Senator Adesanya does not have the locus standi.
i. The Senate, in the exercise of their powers, and after due deliberation in which the plaintiff/appellant took part, confirmed the appointment. It seems to me that the plaintiff/appellant came to court because he was unable to persuade his fellow Senators to agree to his stand in the matter. Furthermore, the learned trial judge who heard the case in the High Court found that he (the plaintiff/appellant) had no personal interest in the matter, a finding which the plaintiff/appellant had not disputed either in the Federal Court of Appeal or in this Court.
ii. By coming to court to ask for a declaration, the plaintiff/appellant, in these circumstances, has completely misconceived his role as a Senator. In short, Senator Adesanya has no locus standi in this particular case. He participated in the debate leading to the confirmation of the appointment of the 2nd defendant/respondent and lost. For him, that should have been the end of the matter. The position would probably have been otherwise if he was not a Senator.
S. 6(6)(b) of 1979 Constitution;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Section 141 subsections (1) and (3) of the 1979 Constitution which read:
“(1) Except in the case of ex officio members or where other provisions are made in this Constitution, the Chairman and members of any of the bodies so established shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, be appointed by the President, and the appointment shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
(3) In exercising his powers to appoint a person as Chairman or member of the Federal Electoral Commission, the Federal Judicial Service Commission or the National Population Commission, the President shall consult the Council of State.”
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
Idigbe J.S.C. in Rabiu v. The State (Supra) at P. 195 is apt: “Where the question is whether the Constitution has used an expression in the wider or in the narrower sense the court should always lean where the justice of the case so demands to the broader interpretation unless there is something in the content or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that the narrower interpretation will best carry out its object and purpose”.
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
A decision already made by the Federal Court of Appeal cannot be referred to the Supreme Court for another decision under that section. Once a decision “on the substantial question of law” is given by the Federal Court of Appeal, the only way to obtain a review of that decision is by way of appeal to the Supreme Court. – Fatayi-Williams, CJN. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
A close look at the said provisions shows that the only finding which a lower court, in the course of stating a case when making a reference to a higher court, can make is one “of fact”, not law. In the same context, the words: “the opinion or decision (if any) of the court stating the case” used in the penultimate sentence therein can only mean and do mean the opinion or decision of the court as to the facts. To construe the words otherwise would make nonsense of the word “question” used both in section 259(3) of the Constitution and rule 1 of Order 6 referred to above. – Fatayi-Williams, CJN. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
In the Nigerian context, it is better to allow a party to go to court and to be heard than to refuse him access to our courts. – Fatayi-Williams, CJN. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
However, except in the extreme or obvious case of abuse of process, how then can one conceive of a judicial process where access to the courts, by persons with grievances, is based solely on the court’s own value judgment in a multiethnic country where more than two hundred languages are spoken? I would rather err on the side of access than on that of restriction. – Fatayi-Williams, CJN. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
Finally, in the Nigerian context and having regard to the detailed provisions of our 1979 Constitution, the point which, I think, needs to be stressed is that there are explicit provisions therein which dealt with the locus standi which is required in order to sustain a claim that there has been an infringement of particular provisions of the Constitution. Consequently, other infractions of the provisions of the said Constitution, to which no restrictions are attached, should not be fettered by the common law or the administrative law concepts of locus standi. The complainant in such cases should be accorded a hearing subject only to the Constitutional restrictions to which I have referred earlier. – Fatayi-Williams, CJN. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
The plaintiff/appellant admitted in his pleadings that he took part in the deliberations in the Senate on the issue of the confirmation of the appointment of the 2nd defendant/respondent. There was no Complaint about the procedure adopted during the deliberations. If his views had prevailed, it is doubtful whether he would have instituted the present proceedings in court. Because those views, urged by him on his fellow senators, did not prevail, he went to court to ask for a declaration that what the Senate did was null and void. Shorn of all embellishments, what the plaintiff/appellant has gone to court to attack is the stand taken by his fellow senators on the issue. He did not approve of the confirmation of the appointment. – Fatayi-Williams, CJN. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
Undoubtedly, certain matters, such as the appointment of the Chairman and members of the Federal Electoral Commission, may sometimes present great controversy; such controversies are, however, not suited for resolution by the courts since, according to the Constitution, they have been entrusted to the other two branches of the government-the Executive and the Legislature-for deliberation and eventual solution. To open the law courts to such controversies is to have the courts sit in judgment over disputes arising from such confirmation proceeding in the Senate. – Fatayi-Williams, CJN. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
I wish to observe that when legislators either in the National or State Assemblies exercise their right of either making law or in circumstances in which they are authorised by the Constitution to approve or confirm certain actions they are bound by the majority decisions. There is no provision in the judicial powers provided in section 6 of the Constitution for any legislator to appeal to any court against the majority decisions. – Sowemimo, JSC. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)
It is the cause of action that one has to examine to ascertain whether there is disclosed a locus standi or standing to sue. – Obaseki, JSC. Adesanya v. FRN (1981)