⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Mr. Anthony Igwemma & Anor v. Chinedu Benjamin Obidigwe & Ors (2019) – SC
– in rem;
– abuse of court process;
– res judicata;
1. Mr. Anthony Igwemma;
2. Hon. Victor Jideofor Okoye
1. Chinedu Benjamin Obidigwe;
2. All Progressives Grand Alliance;
3. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC);
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
JOHN INYANG OKORO, J.S.C.
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
This is an appeal against the judgement of the Court of Appeal which held that the suit brought before the Federal High Court is substantially on the same subject matter as the suit decided prior by the State High Court of Anambra. The issue in the latter court was as to the age of the 1st respondent. The state high court settled the issue of age in favour of the 1st respondent. The matter brought before the Federal High Court is also as regards the qualification of the 1st respondent with regards to his age. The Federal High Court held that the issue of his qualification has been determined in the State High Court and such is “res judicata”. The suit was dismissed. Thereafter, the appeal by the appellants to the Court of Appeal, which the Court of Appeal dismissed. Hence, this suit before the Supreme Court.
1. Whether the Court below was not in error when it affirmed the decision of the trial Court that suit No. FHC/AWK/CS/148/2018 constituted an abuse of Court process in view of the judgment in suit No. OT/194/2018.
2. Whether the non-service of the 2nd Respondent’s Notice of Contention on the Appellants did not constitute a breach of their fundamental right of fair hearing.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[APPEAL: DISMISSED WITH N500,000 COST]
1. FOR ISSUE 1, JUDGEMENT WAS GIVEN AGAINST THE APPELLANTS AND IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENTS.
i. It must be noted that the Appellants and the 1st Respondents are members of the same political family the 2nd Respondent i.e. All Progressives Grand Alliance. Also the party who sued the 1st Respondent in OT/194/ 2018 is also a member of APGA, the same family. It follows that members of the 2nd Respondent who lost out in the nomination process to become candidate of the 2nd Respondent in the election aforesaid are a more united members of the same family. They have the same grievance, interest and goal to stop the 1st Respondent from being nominated the candidate of the 2nd Respondent. That is why the plaintiff in OT/194/2018 went to Court to stop the 1st Respondent from being nominated. The vehicle was issue of his age falsification. Had he succeeded, the present appellants would definitely not file their present suit on the same issue. But because “they” lost in that suit, they decided to take a second bite on the cherry. That is why I totally agree with the two Courts below that judgment in OT/194/2018 was a judgment in rem which binds the parties in the litigation and others having anything to do with the status of the 2nd Respondent so declared and pronounced by the Anambra State High Court.
ii. The judgment in suit No. OT/194/ 2018 is a judgment of a competent Court and a judgment in rem which has determined the status of the 1st Respondent. As was rightly held by the two Courts below, a relitigation of the same issue of the falsification of age of the 1st respondent by the appellants cannot be justified as members of his party had earlier done so.
2. Since issue 1 was in favour of the respondents, issue 2 was not determined since it rests on the validity of issue 1.
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides: “Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or rules of a Political Party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a State or FCT, for redress.”
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Where a Court of competent jurisdiction has finally settled a matter in dispute between parties, neither party nor privy may relitigate that issue as under the guise of bringing a fresh action, since the matter is said to be res judicata. – John Okoro, JSC. Igwemma v. Obidigwe (2019)
The law is trite that where a political party conducts its primary and a dissatisfied contestant or aspirant at the primary complains about the conduct of the primaries, the Courts have jurisdiction by virtue of Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act reproduced above to examine if the conduct of the primary elections was in accordance with the parties constitution and guidelines. This is so because in the conduct of primaries, the Courts will not allow a political party to act arbitrarily or as it likes. – John Okoro, JSC. Igwemma v. Obidigwe (2019)
A person who did not take part in the primary as a candidate or aspirant cannot invoke Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) to institute a case in Court… In other words, a party who did not take part in the primaries as an aspirant has no locus standi to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court in the circumstance. – John Okoro, JSC. Igwemma v. Obidigwe (2019)