⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi v. Barr. Nasiru Audu Dangiri & Ors (2014) – SC
AlhaJi Sani Abubakar Danladi
1. Barr. Nasiru Audu Dangiri (Chairman, Panel of Investigation into Allegations of Gross Misconduct against the Deputy Governor of Taraba State)
2. Arch. Usman Binga
3. Barr. R. J. Ikitausai
4. Elder Japhet Wubon
5. Alh. Mustapha Sani
6. Haj. Aishatu Muhammed
7. Mr. Julius Dawhai Kaigama (Members of the Panel)
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, J.S.C.
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
Appellant was serving his second term as Deputy Governor of Taraba State.
On the 4th of September, 2012, members of the Taraba State House of Assembly laid before the Speaker of the said House, a notice of complaint of gross misconduct against the appellant. On the said 4th September, the complaint was served on the appellant for his reaction.
Appellant duly prepared and forwarded his reply to the charges laid against him. On 18th September, 2012 the House passed a Motion, pursuant to Section 188(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct against the appellant.
Consequent upon the resolution of the House to investigate the allegations against the appellant, the Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly requested the Acting Chief Judge of the State to constitute a 7-member panel to investigate the allegations pursuant to Section 188(5) of the Constitution (supra).
Appellant filed an Originating Summons and a motion restraining the Panel from investigating the allegations against him. Appellant alleged that inspite of his motion, the panel went ahead with the investigation, at the conclusion of which it submitted its report to the House.
Appellant filed an amended Originating Summons to incorporate new issues relating to denial of fair hearing in the proceedings of the Panel. In support of the amended Originating Summons, appellant filed a 34 paragraph affidavit. The Respondents filed a joint counter-affidavit of 27 paragraphs. The appellant filed a further affidavit of 14 paragraphs.
At the trial, learned counsel for the panel called five witnesses and closed his case. Appellant’s learned counsel called one witness and asked for four days adjournment on health grounds to enable the appellant call two more witnesses and testify on his behalf. He alleged that the application was denied and the appellant’s case was closed by the Panel.
The Panel submitted its report which was adopted by the House and based on same; the House removed the appellant from office.
Appellant continued to prosecute his Amended Originating Summons to which the respondents had raised a preliminary objection challenging the procedure in the commencement of the suit.
At the conclusion of the trial, the learned trial Judge concluded inter alia: “Since the plaintiff have (sic) commenced this case by way of an originating summons and not through the Writ of Summons, questions and allegations of denial of fair hearing which will certainly involve acrimonious and riotous dispute of fact, it will be inappropriate on the part of this Court to proceed to resolve this complaint under the procedure chosen and adopted by the plaintiff. The objection raised by the defendants therefore has merit as the deficiencies highlighted in the case are fatal. The case is only good for striking out and it is hereby struck out.”
In his appeal to the Court of Appeal against the judgment, appellant formulated the following three issues from his grounds of appeal for determination in his brief of argument:
“1. Whether having regard to the fact that no order or relief is sought against either the Acting Chief Judge of Taraba State or the Taraba State House of Assembly their nonjoinder is fatal to the plaintiff’s suit.
2. Whether the action being commenced by originating summons is incompetent.
3. Whether the Honourable learned trial Judge ought to have set aside the proceedings and the report of the Seven-man Panel which investigated the allegation of gross misconduct against the appellant for want of fair hearing.”
The Court of Appeal resolved issues 1 and 3 against the appellant and issue 2 against the respondent.
The appellant being aggrieved has appealed before this Supreme Court.
Although there were several issues, the main issue was, Whether the Appellant was granted fair hearing at the set-up panel?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
The Supreme Court held that the Appellant was not given fair hearing.
i. On the undisputed facts of this case, the respondent having denied the specific allegation of denial of fair hearing in general terms, ought to have tendered the complete and unedited report of their own proceedings to disprove the allegation of the appellant. Further, in the pursuit of substantial, rather than technical justice, the trial Court and the lower court ought to have ordered the respondents to produce the complete and unedited record of their proceedings, having in mind that the quest for justice cannot be reduced to a game of hide and seek. There is no suggestion that the complete and unedited record did not exist.
ii. Based on the facts of this case, I am of the view that Exhibit HAG 25 was deliberately edited before or after it was submitted by the respondents to the House of Assembly and the editing was done with the sore aim to defeat the appellant’s case on denial of fair hearing.
iii. In absence of the complete record of the Panel, neither the trial Court, the Court below nor this Court can determine that the appellant was not denied fair hearing. See Ediekpo & 2 Ors v. Osia & 3 Ors (2007) 3 SC (Pt. 1) page 1. There is no way the Court below, composed of human beings, could have determined without the complete record, what transpired in the Court below or in the Panel. In pursuit of its duty to do substantial justice in the case, the effect of which transcends the parties therein and affects the entire voting population of Taraba State, the lower Court ought to have called for the complete record. In the alternative, the Court below should have complied with the principle it stated to the effect that Originating Summons is heard on affidavit. Rather than demand the complete record of the proceedings of the panel, this Court can, pursuant to its powers in Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act do what the Court below ought to have done but failed or neglected to do.
iv. The respondents chose not to react to the appellant’s complaint that his Counsel’s application for adjournment on 3rd October was denied by the Panel or that the Panel compelled Counsel to proceed with the defence. They are deemed to have admitted the appellant’s averments.
v. In consequence, I allow the appeal and vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeal. I hereby order that the entire proceedings of the Panel that purported, at the instance of the Taraba State House of Assembly, to investigate the allegation of gross misconduct made by the House against the appellant, the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, up to and including the incomplete and edited report relied on in removing the appellant by the House, be, and is hereby, declared null and void and of no legal or factual consequence whatsoever.
Section 36 of the Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
The learned senior counsel appeared to have been unaware of the essence of a reply brief. It is not for a repetition or improvement of arguments in the appellant’s brief. Appellant need not repeat issues joined either by emphasis or expatiation. – Ngwuta, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
The practice is usually that originating summons is not a proper procedure where contentious issues of fact are to be resolved by the court. – AKA’AHS, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. The reverse is equally disturbing. Justice rushed is a travesty of justice and a threat to the fabric that binds civilized society together. As if the rushed justice was not bad enough, the panel presented to the Taraba House of Assembly an incomplete and edited report upon which the appellant was removed on the 4th October, 2012, the day following the submission of the report. At least, the respondents did not disclaim the incomplete and edited report. – Ngwuta, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
From the undisputed facts of this case, one has the inevitable but disturbing impression that the Panel composed of the respondents was a mere sham and that the removal of the appellant from office was a done deal as it were. In my view, the respondents, in their purported investigation of the allegation made against the appellant, merely played out a script previously prepared and handed over to the panel. – Ngwuta, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
The most disturbing aspect of the Kangaroo panel is that it was headed by a man described in the processes before this Court as a barrister one Barrister Nasiru Audu Dangiri. The third member of the Panel was also described as a barrister one Barrister R. J. Ikitausai. If these two men are actually members of the noble profession to which your Lordships and my humble self, by the Grace of God have the honour to belong, and not people who, for self-aggrandisement adopted the nomenclature “barrister”, the harm they have deliberately perpetrated in this matter is so serious that the attention of the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar ought to be drawn to it. – Ngwuta, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
Impeachment of elected politicians is a very serious matter and should not be conducted as a matter of course. The purpose is to set aside the will of the electorate as expressed at the polls. It has implication for the impeached as well as the electorate who bestowed the mandate on him. Whether it takes one day or the three months prescribed by law, the rules of due process must be strictly followed. If the matter is left at the whims and caprices of politicians and their panels, a State or even the entire country could be reduced to the status of a banana republic. The procedure for impeachment and removal must be guarded jealously by the Courts. – Ngwuta, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
Here is a case where the panel has three months within which to conduct and conclude its investigation of impeachable allegations against appellant but appellant requested for a four days adjournment on health grounds and to enable two of his witnesses attend and testify on his behalf but the panel refused the request, closed the case of appellant and prepared its report which was submitted to the Taraba House of Assembly the next day. The said House proceeded on the same day of receipt of the report to remove appellant from office. In all, the proceedings lasted a period of about six days out of the three months assigned. Why all the rush one may ask. The rush in this case has obviously resulted in a breach of the right to fair hearing of appellant which in turn nullifies the proceedings of the panel. Appellant was, in the circumstances of the case not given sufficient time or opportunity to present his defence to the charges leveled against him. – Onnoghen, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
I agree that the respondents having denied the specific allegation of denial of fair hearing in general terms ought to have tendered the complete and unedited report of their own proceedings to disprove the appellant’s allegation. Respondents have given the impression that Exhibit “HAG 25” was deliberately edited before or after it had been submitted to the House of Assembly with the sole purpose of defeating the appellant’s complaint of denial of fair hearing. – GALADIMA, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)
If our democracy must be sustained and grow, everybody must abide by the rule of law and ensure that all procedures laid down for taking any action are scrupulously complied with. – AKA’AHS, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)