Presidential poll: Supreme Court strikes out HDP’s appeal against Buhari

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck out the appeal brought before it by Presidential candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Chief Ambrose Owuru and his party against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23, 2019, general election.

Justice Mary Peter-Odili, who presided over the five-member panel of justices of the court and delivered the judgment, said the appeal was struck out on the grounds that Owuru and his party engaged in gross abuse of court processes by filing two notices of appeal contrary to the provisions of the law.

The apex court, in the unanimous decision, held that the appellants failed to appeal against the August 22, 2019 ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which struck out their petition for being incompetent.

The court held that the two appellants embarked on a journey aimed at misdirecting the court by filing two notices of appeal and simultaneously used the two notices to formulate grounds of appeal, contrary to the provisions of the law.

The court then upheld the preliminary objection by the respondents, Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressive Congress (APC), that the two appeals filed by Owuru and his party constitute an abuse of court process.

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The apex court held that the appellants embarked on a mission to misdirect the court by using the issues raised in the two appeals interchangeably.

According to the apex court, where an appellant uses two processes at their will is not allowed in law. The two notices of appeal filed by the appellants before the court is a procedure not known to law.

“Therefore, there is no appeal before the court and consequently, the appeals are hereby struck out, there is no order as to cost”, Justice Peter-Odili stated and upheld the judgment of the Tribunal.

When the matter was called, counsel to President Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN),  INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN) and the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) had in separate preliminary objections asked the apex court to strike out the appeal on the grounds that the appellants contravened the law by filing two notices of appeal in one matter.

The three senior counsel drew the attention of the court to the first notice of appeal filed on August 28 and the second one filed on September 2, which were simultaneously used to formulate issues in the main appeal and which were predicated on different grounds.

The first one has 12 grounds and the second, eight grounds.

The respondents argued that the action of the appellants by the two notices of appeal constituted a gross abuse of court process.

However, counsel to the appellants, Isaac Udoka, tried to convince the apex court on why the two notices of appeal were filed in respect of one matter.

Udoka submitted that the appellants were forced to do so because the tribunal did not release a clean copy of its August 22 judgment on time while the time to file a notice of appeal was running out.

He urged the court to use its discretion to consider the second notice of appeal as a continuation of the first one.

Delivering ruling on the preliminary objections by the respondents, Justice Odili rejected the plea of the appellants that the second notice of appeal be used as a continuation of the first one, adding that apart from formulating different issues and grounds on the two offending notice of appeal, they were properly so titled as notice of appeal.

The panel held that it was wrong for the appellants to have filed two notices of appeal and simultaneously used the two to argue their case even when they were within the time allowed by law to file a proper notice of appeal.

Besides, Justice Odili held that the two appellants did not appeal the ruling of the tribunal which declared their petition incompetent, abuse of court and struck it out but chose to appeal against the substantive judgment on the main petition which was delivered by the tribunal, “out of abundant caution”.

With the failure of the appellants to appeal against the ruling of the tribunal on the respondents objections to the petition, Justice Odili held that their appeal against the substantive judgment of the tribunal has no legs to stand upon.

The court therefore upheld the objection of the respondents to the hearing of the appeal and consequently struck it out.

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