LEGAL IDEAS FORUM

Whether or not a Court of Competent Jurisdiction can delve into internal affairs of a Political Party :A review on the case of APC V Engr. Sulaiman Aluyi Lere 2020 (1) NWLR (PT.1705), WITH the Saga of Obaseki as the case Study. By Mujahid Muhammad Musa




INTRODUCTION:

It’s trite law that some judgements could be made “per incurium.” My warm review is on the judgement given by Lord Rhodes-Vivour (JSC) in the foregoing case. Among the “ratio decidendi” of the case is that “no court can question the internal affairs of a political party”. However, it was stated, relying on the foregoing case that every candidate dissatisfied with his disqualification by his respective political party, has no remedy than to seek his ambition at another political party. 

In July or so, Obaseki was disqualified by the National Working Committee of the APC and a lot of opinions were laid down, setting precedent with the aforementioned case for legal practitioners and law students respectively. I will first of all examine the decision of the supreme court in the aforementioned case – SULAIMAN ALUYI LERE V APC 2020 (1) NWLR (PT.1705).



THE CASE REVIEW:

I will first and foremost, start by highlighting the supremacy of the constitution which is very paramount. It is crystal clear that every law derives its validity from the constitution. The constitution is supreme, and any law that seeks to compete with the constitution shall be void. The constitution provides thus:


   “1(1) This constitution is supreme and its provision shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

    (3) if any law is inconsistent with the constitution, this constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.


Equally, elections and political parties are regulated by the Constitution and the Electoral Act. In respect to the political parties, political parties are regulated by the provision of part III-D, section 221 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( as amended). Equally, the Electoral Act, whose primary aim for its enactment is to regulate the conduct of election and political party affair, was enacted subject to the provision of section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federation Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Section 4 provides that:


   ” The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for peace, order and good government of the federal republic or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the exclusive legislative list set out in part I of the second schedule of this constitution.

       4(4) In addition and without prejudice to the powers conferred by subsection 2 of this section, the National Assembly shall have power to make laws with respect to the following matters, that is to say-
   
    (a) Any matter in the concurrent legislative list set out in the first column of part II of the second schedule of this constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and
     (b) any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in 
accordance with the provision of this constitution.”


Equally, it is purported that the APC’s constitution bars a court from adjudicating the internal affairs of the political party. However, the provision of section 4(8) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear, it provides that:

     “Save as otherwise provided by the provision of this constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of law and of the judicial tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or House of Assembly shall not enact any law that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of any tribunal established by law.

By and large, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides in section 6(6)(a) that:

     ” The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section-
      (a) shall extend, notwithstanding anything contrary in this constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law
      (b) shall extend to all matters between persons , or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil Rights and obligation of that person.


The language of the foregoing provision of the law is very clear and precise, therefore, the purported provision of the APC’S constitution that ousts the jurisdiction of a court of law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution and therefore, null and void to the extent of the inconsistency.

Equally, the National Assembly as well as the House of Assembly were not empowered to make laws that will rob the jurisdiction of the courts or tribunals established by law. Therefore, no man or body can make regulations nor any contract that will oust the jurisdiction of courts. Therefore, the purported provision of the APC’S constitution has no leg to stand but a mere white sheet.

Equally, Professor Sagay stated in his book – “The Nigerian Law of Contract, that:

      ” Any provision in any agreement which is purported to deprive the parties of their rights to resort to court for settlement of any dispute arising out of the agreement, is void on the ground of public policy.


Furthermore, it’s also repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and also, contrary to the provision of section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)

Also, Lord Denning held in the common law case of LEE V SHOWMEN’S GUILT OF GREAT BRITAIN that:

    “… The well known principle of law that parties cannot contract to oust the ordinary jurisdiction of courts… They can, of course agree to leave the question of law as well as the question of fact to the decision of domestic tribunals, they can indeed make the tribunal the final arbitar but they can’t prevent its decision being examined by the courts if parties should seek by agreement to take the law out of the hands of the courts, and put it in the hands of a private tribunal without any recourse at all to the courts in case of any error, then the agreement is to that extent contrary to public policy and void.”

In nutshell, the ruling of the court in the aforementioned case has left many questions unanswered: how did the supreme court come to conclusion on abstaining courts from dabbling at the internal affairs of a political party, knowing fully well that the supremacy of the constitution is very paramount?


FOOTNOTES:
* Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)
* LEE V SHOWMEN’S GUILT OF GREAT BRITAIN.  [1952] 1 All ER 1175 
* The Electoral Act 2010
* The Nigerian Law of Contract: Sagay. ISBN 0421304200 (paperback).
* APC’s Constitution






ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Muhammad Mujahid Musa is a 200 level law student at Usman Danfodio University Sokoto. He can be reached through Tel: +2349030834295






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