The Court of Appeal in Abuja has faulted the decision by a High Court of Ogun State refusing to hear a suit filed by a factional governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Olusegun Anthony Adeyemi-Sowunmi.
Adeyemi-Sowunmi had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC) and another factional governorship candidate of the party in Ogun State, Oladipupo Adebutu, seeking among others, the sack of the state and wards Executive Committees of the party for allegedly buying nomination form for Adebutu.
He accused members of the state EXCO of exhibiting bias, conflict of interest and breach of trust by contributing money to buy nomination form for only Adebutu, to the exclusion of other aspirants.
In a ruling on May 19, 2022, Justice A. A. Akinyemi of the High Court of Ogun State declined jurisdiction over the case, holding that the suit was a pre-election one and that the state’s party EXCO was not made a party.
But, in a certified true copy of a unanimous judgment on August 15, 2022, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja partially upheld the appeal filed Adeyemi-Sowunmi against the May 19 ruling by Justice Akinyemi.
The judgment was on the appeal marked: CA/IB/243/2022 filed by Adeyemi-Sowunmi, with the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC) and Adebutu as respondents.
In the lead judgment by Justice of the Court of Appeal (JCA), Justice Chidi Nwaoma Uwa, the appellate court held that the Ogun High Court was wrong to have declined jurisdiction on the grounds that the state EXCO, which was to be affected by the outcome of the suit, was not made a party.
The court equally faulted the Ogun High Court for holding that the case was a pre-election matter over which only the Federal High Court possesses jurisdiction.
The appellate court further held that by the provision of Order 13 Rule 16(1) and (3) of the High Court of Ogun State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2014, the judge of the Ogun High Court provides that no case could rejected on grounds of non-joinder of a necessary party.
Justice Uwa said, “In fact a judge is permitted to suo moto (on his own) join any party that is necessary for a proper determination of the matter, which the lower court should have done if truly the EXCO members of the 1st respondent (PDP) were required for an effectual determination of the matter, the appropriate order was not the striking out of the suit.
“No doubt, it is proper to join a necessary party in order to arrive at a just decision, such joinder may be made at the instance of any of the existing parties, the third party himself or the court.
“The rules of the lower court is unambiguous concerning non-joinder of a party in a suit, such party could be joined and it would not affect the competence of the suit.
“I hold that the lower court was wrong to have declined jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the basis of non-joinder of the EXCO members of the 1st respondent who were said would be affected and bound by the orders sought at the lower court.”
The JCA also held that as against the decision by the Ogun High Court, Section 84 (14) of the Electoral Act 2022 has not specifically excluded the State High Court from hearing pre-election cases.
Justice Uwa added: “I hold that the lower court had the jurisdiction to have entertained the matter assuming the complaint at the lower court was a pre-election matter.
“On its merits, the appeal succeeds in part, issue one is resolved against the appellant and issues two and three in favour of the appellant,” Justice Uwa added.