➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Anyanwu v. PDP (2020) – SC
by “PipAr” Branham-Paul C. Chima, SAL.
Supreme Court – (2020) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1710) 134
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ PRINCIPLES OF LAW
⦿ GROUNDS MUST BE FROM RATIO DECIDENDI
The law is trite that issues for determination must be distilled from the grounds of appeal, which must, in turn arise from the ratio decidendi of the decision appealed against. Black’s Law Dictionary (8th Edition) states clearly that the ratio decidendi of a case is the principle or rule of law upon which a court’s decision is founded. It is the reason for the decision or the reasoning, principle or ground upon which a case is decided. Put differently, the ratio decidendi of a decision can be clearly differentiated from the other parts of the decision referred to as obita dicta or obiter dictum, which simply means “something said in passing.” It is a judicial comment made while delivering a judicial opinion, but one that does not embody the decision of the court. See Oleksander & Ors v. Lonestar Drilling Company Limited & Anor (2015) LPELR-24614 (SC), (2015) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1464) 337; Daniel v. INEC (2015) LPELR – 24566 (SC); (2015) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1463) 113; Ajibola v. Ajadi (2004) 14 NWLR (Pt. 892) 14. — Okoro, JSC.
⦿ AN OBITER DICTUM IS NOT BINDING
Even in the Supreme Court, an obiter dictum is clearly not binding on us or indeed on the lower courts, for obiter dicta, though they may have considerable weight, are not rationes decidendi and are therefore not conclusive authority and are not appealable. See American International Insurance Company v. Ceekay Traders Ltd (1981) 5 SC 81 at 110, Afro – Continental Nigeria Ltd v. Joseph Ayantuyi & Ors (1995) LPELR – 218 (SC) (1995) 9 NWLR (Pt. 420) 411. — Okoro, JSC.
⦿ COURT CANNOT PICK BETWEEN TWO CONTRADICTING EVIDENCE
The law is trite that where there are material contradictions in the evidence adduced by a party, the court is enjoined to reject the entire evidence as it cannot pick and choose which of the conflicting versions to believe or follow. See Mogaji v. Cadbury (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 7) 393, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu v. Alex Otti & Ors (2016) LPELR-40055 (SC), (2016) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1513) 38; Doma v. INEC (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1317) 297 at 322 – 323 paragraphs G-C, Muka v. The State (1976) 9 – 10 SC (Reprint) 193 at 205, Onubogu v. The State (1974) 9 SC 1 at 20, Salami v. Gbadoolu & Ors (1997) 4 NWLR (Pt. 499) 277. — Okoro, JSC.
⦿ ALLEGATIONS OF CRIME IN ELECTION PETITION MUST BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT
Now, notwithstanding the fact that election petitions are a specie of civil proceedings, where in any such election petition, allegations, which are criminal in nature are made in the pleadings, they must be proved beyond reasonable doubt Abubakar v. Yar ‘Adua (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1120) 1, 143; 144; Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1; Omoboriowo v. Ajasin (1984) 1 SCNLR 108; Kakih v. PDP (2014) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1430) 374, 422 – 423; B-C; Nwobodo v. Onoh (1984) 1 SCNLR 27-28; Emmanuel v. Umanah and Ors (2016) LPELR – 40037 (SC) 93 et seq. reported as Udom v. Emmanuel (2016) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1526) 179. — Nweze, JSC.
⦿ IT IS WITNESS WHO IS TO EXPLAIN INCONSISTENCY, NOT COUNSEL
A line of decisions of this court, including Onubogu v. The State (1974) 9 SC.1 at p.20; Ateji v. The State (1976) 2 SC 79 at pp. 83 – 84; Boy Muka v. The State (1976) 9-10 SC 193 at p.205, has held that in such a situation there is a failure to prove the criminal allegation beyond reasonable doubt. The person to explain the inconsistency is a witness(es) called by the party in whose case there are inconsistencies or contradictions, and not the counsel from the Bar. Afterall, a bare statement from the Bar has no force of legal evidence. The law is settled that the courts do not accept argument of counsel as substitute for evidence. — Eko, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
John Inyang Okoro, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
S.I. Ameh, SAN.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
Chief Chris Uche, SAN.
K.C.O. Njemanze, SAN.
➥ CASE FACT/HISTORY
A brief state of facts leading to this appeal shows that appellant and the 2nd respondent vied for the governorship ticket alongside four (4) other aspirants in the 1st respondent’s primary election conducted on the 1st day of October, 2018. At the close of polls, the 2nd respondent was declared as the winner of the primary election with 1,723 votes, while the appellant polled 1,282 votes. Thereafter, the 2nd respondent represented the 1st respondent and emerged as the winner of the election to the office of the Governor of Imo State in the 2019 general election.
Contrarily, the case of the 1st respondent defendant) before the trial court was that the primary election of 1st October, 2018 was impeccable, free, fair and credible and all the aspirants, including the appellant commended the 2nd respondent on his emergence as the Governorship candidate of the 1st respondent. That the Electoral Committee made strict use of the list of delegates issued to by the National Organizing Committee Secretary of the 1st respondent, which was published to all the aspirants well ahead of time. That the elected delegates were duly identified at the entrance of the venue of the primaries, and accredited.
The appellant, as plaintiff commenced this pre-election suit against the respondents as defendants at the Federal High Court, Owerri by an amended writ of summons and an amended statement of claim found on pages 120 – 211 of volume one of the record of appeal.
At the trial court the appellant sought the following reliefs, inter alia: “(a) An order of the honourable court nullifying the purported results emanating from Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ezinihitte Mbaise, Ngor Okpala and Owerri Municipal Council, the same not being products of votes cast by lawful delegates.”
The trial court, in its judgment held that the appellant’s case was contradictory and that he did not prove his case on the preponderance of credible evidence as required by law and dismissed his claims.
Appellant’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was also dismissed as the court below upheld the findings of the trial court against the appellant.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION(S)
[PRELIMINARY OBJECTION: ALLOWED]
I. Whether ground 4 arises from the ratio decidendi of the Court of Appeal?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. GROUND 4 DOES NOT ATTACK THE RATIO DECIDENDI
“This is what ground 4 says (without the particulars): “Ground 4: The Court of Appeal erred in law by holding as follows: “Of course, matters relating to the selection/nomination of a candidate for an election is the sole preserve of the political party. Eze v. PDP (2019) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1652) 1. The 1st respondent herein is not complaining.””
“These findings and decisions are far from ground four in the notice of appeal. I agree entirely with the learned senior counsel for the 1st respondent that ground four does not attack the ratio decidendi of the judgment appealed against. Where a ground of appeal does not arise from the judgment appealed against as is the case herein, such ground of appeal is incompetent and is liable to be struck out. Also, any issue distilled from the incompetent ground of appeal, is also liable to be struck out. Accordingly, both ground 4 in the notice of appeal and issue 3 distilled therefrom, are hereby struck out, being incompetent.”
[MAIN APPEAL: DISMISSED]
I. Whether the court below was not right in affirming the decision of the trial court dismissing the appellant’s case?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. THAT THE APPELLANT DID NOT PROVE HIS CASE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT
“From the concurrent findings of the two courts below the appellant failed to prove the criminal allegations made against the 2nd respondent beyond reasonable doubt and also gave contradictory evidence on material particular which tainted the evidence he adduced in support of his case. By section 135(1) of the Evidence Act 2011 the burden of proving allegation of crime rests on the person who asserts it and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. See Babatunde & anor v. A B C Bank of the North Ltd. & ors (2011) LPELR-8249 (SC) page 45, (2011) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1279) 735; Posu v. The State (2011) LPELR – 1969 (SC) page 17, (2011) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1234) 393; Okonkwo v. Co-operative & Commerce Bank Nig. Plc & ors (2003) LPELR2484 (SC) page 34; (2003) 8 NWLR (Pt. 822) 347 … It is my view that such contradiction destroyed the case of the appellant and I strongly bold the view that the court below was in firma terra to agree with the learned trial Judge who rejected such contradictory and unreliable evidence. Being that the list of delegates was central to the case of the appellant, his inability to lead credible evidence to prove the number of delegates billed to vote in the said primary election was fatal to his case … As I said earlier, one of the objects of cross-examination is to destroy or weaken the material parts of the other party’s case, and there is no question that the contradiction in the number of delegates from the said LGAs, which is a material fact in this case, weakened his case, because as the trial court said, ‘the number of delegates could not have been 1,095 and 594 at the same time’”
“The appellant, for instance alleged that the delegates list was doctored in favour of the 2nd respondent. This means that the list was falsified or that its content was changed in order to deceive. This is clearly a criminal allegation which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The law is very clear that in order to succeed, the party asserting it must plead and provide particulars of the forgery or “doctoring” in this pleadings. He must then lead evidence to prove the said allegation beyond reasonable doubt. See Eya & ors v. Olopade & anor (2013) LPELR – 1184 (SC) pages 38 – 39 paragraphs F – C; (2011) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1259) 505.”
B. IT MUST BE PROVED THAT AN AGENT WAS GRANTED AUTHORITY TO ACT AS A THUG
“The same principle applies to the issue of thuggery and violence which are clearly criminal in nature. The law is trite that being criminal allegations, they cannot be transferred from one person (the thugs) to another (eg the candidate). It is personal and must be proved in relations to the thugs personally unless it can be proved that the person whose election is being challenged personally committed the corrupt acts or aided abetted, consented or procured the commission of the offence or offences. Where it is alleged that the thuggery/violence or any other offence was committed through an agent, it must be proved by credible evidence that the agent was expressly authorized to act in that capacity or granted authority to so act. See Omisore v. Aregbesola (supra), Audu v. INEC (No 2) (2010) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1212) 456.”
“Having resolved this issue against the appellant, I hold that there is no merit in this appeal. I affirm the judgment of the court below delivered on 16th June, 2019. I award costs of N200,000 B against the appellant in favour of 1st and 2nd respondents only. Appeal Dismissed.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)