⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Ugba & Anor v. Suswan & Ors. (2014) – SC
by NSA PaulPipAr
– Election petition;
– Setting aside a ruling;
1. Prof. Steve Torkuma Ugba;
2. All Progressives Congress (APC);
1. Gabriel Torwua Suswan;
2. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP);
3. Independent National Etectoral Commission (INEC);
LOR (9/5/2014) SC;
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, J.S.C.
* FOR THE APPLICANT
– Mr. Orkumah, Esq.
* FOR THE RESPONDENTS
– Mr. Dodo, SAN – for 1st Respondent.
– Chief Akuma, SAN – for 2nd Respondent.
– Mr. J. S. Okutepa, SAN – for 3rd Respondent.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
This application was brought pursuant to Sections 6(6)(a) and (b), 36(1) and (3), 294(2) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended); Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 2004; Order 2 Rule 28(1) and Order 8 Rule 17 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1999 (As Amended); and the inherent jurisdiction of this Court and seeks for the following reliefs:
a) An order setting aside its ruling delivered in open court on 8th day of June, 2012 in Appeals Nos. SC.191/2012 and SC.191A/2012, terminating the said appeals.
b) An order implementing/Enforcing its order/decision delivered on 14th November, 2011 that the petition be heard on the merits.
c) An order Restoring Appeals Nos: SC.191/2012, SC.191A/2012 terminated on 8th June, 2012 and hearing same on the merits;
d) Accelerated hearing of this application;
e) Such further order(s) as this Honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
1. Whether in the circumstances of this matter the applicants have satisfied the conditions to warrant this court in setting aside its Ruling delivered on 8th June, 2012?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[APPEAL: DISMISSED, WITH N1M COST AGAINST THE APPLICANT TO EACH OF THE RESPONDENTS]
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPLICANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. It is for instance expedient to restate that the totality of the applicants’ averments in their supporting affidavit, only allege an “error” on the part of this court and not lack of competence in delivering the Ruling of 8th June, 2012. With reference made to the conditions set out in the case of Igwe v. Kalu supra, it is evident that for this court to set aside its judgment, the decision must have been a nullity. In otherwords it must have been made by the court either without statutory jurisdiction, or when a condition precedent for the court to assume jurisdiction has not been fulfilled. An erroneous judgment however, is one made within the court’s competence and therefore cannot be branded as a nullity.
ii. The affidavit in support of the applicants’ motion did not indicate that the court was misled into giving its ruling, or that there was the absence of jurisdiction on its part in entertaining the preliminary objection that culminated in the said ruling 8th June, 2012. It was not also disclosed that the ruling sought to be set aside was obtained either by fraud or deceit.
S. 285(2), (6), (7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999;
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
Plateau State of Nigeria v. Attorney General of the Federation (2006) 3 NWLR (Pt. 967) 346, I defined academic and hypothetical suits at page 419: “A suit is academic where it is merely theoretical, makes empty sound, and of no practical utilitarian value to the plaintiff even if judgment is given in his favour. A suit is academic if it is not related to practical situation of human nature and humanity. A suit is hypothetical if it is imaginary and not based on real facts”.
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Following from the foregoing deductions, the principle is well established that this court has no jurisdiction to set aside its ruling or judgment if properly made in the exercise of its powers and jurisdiction. However and that notwithstanding, there is also a rider or a caveat which holds secure that in appropriate cases, it is expedient that the court, in the exercise of its inherent powers, can set aside its Ruling or judgment provided the circumstance calling for such order has satisfied the stringent conditions that the judgment or ruling is a nullity; that such decision was obtained by fraud; and that the court was misled in delivering the said judgment or ruling. – Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ugba v. Suswan (2014)
As rightly submitted and also deposed to on the 1st respondent’s written submissions, and counter affidavit respectively, the totality of the application is an attempt to invite this court to sit on an appeal over its Ruling delivered 8th June, 2012 and which it is not clothed with the power to do. – Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ugba v. Suswan (2014)
The above notwithstanding, it is very unfortunate that applicants have decided to persist in the practice of pestering the court with applications of this nature as this is not the first time applicants have approached this court with similar application which was refused. Learned senior counsel for the applicants are presumed to know the state of the law applicable to the application under consideration, which is clearly not on their side but deliberately decided to present same before the court, may be for the purpose of annoying the court. – Onnoghen, JSC. Ugba v. Suswan (2014)
It is trite law that the decisions of this court are final. The court has no jurisdiction to sit on appeal over its decision once it has been delivered except under very exceptional circumstances, such as:
1). When the judgment is obtained by fraud or deceit in the court or of one or more of the parties.
2). When the judgment is a nullity.
3). When it is obvious that the court was misled into giving judgment under a mistaken belief that the parties consented to it. – – Galadima, JSC. Ugba v. Suswan (2014)
I cannot conclude without letting it be known that this application and appeal are very irritating and vexatious since there are numerous authorities of this Court for the past three years on the interpretation of these very Sections of the Constitution, Section 285 (6) and (7) taken alongside Section 36 (1) of the same Constitution to the knowledge of the counsel for the Applicants and it is crystal clear that this court is being used as a soap box in the realm of politics which is not what the Courts are for. This grandstanding should be taken elsewhere as this electoral dispute ended a long time ago. – Peter-Odili, JSC. Ugba v. Suswan (2014) **
The amendment to the original Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution by allotting time within which to hear and determine election petition and appeals arising therefrom is designed to ensure expeditious hearing and conclusion of election matters. – Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ugba v. Suswan (2014)
Decisions in case laws are meant to speak volume both in the given situation and for future guidance. Counsel is well advised to desist from filing unnecessary suits which are merely academic and yielding no benefits but mere waste of quality time. – Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ugba v. Suswan (2014)