Yar’Adua: S’Court Strikes Out Election Petition

06 Jul 2010

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The Supreme Court on Monday struck out  the petition filed by the Hope Democratic Party challenging the election in 2007 of  the late  Umaru Yar’Adua as president  of Nigeria.

Justice Aloma Mukthar struck out the petition following an oral application by Mr. Gbenga Adeyemi a lawyer from the chambers of Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN.
Adeyemi told the court that it was common knowledge that Yar’Adua died on 5th of May 2010 and that by the Supreme Court’s Rules the petition against him ought to be struck out.

He cited Order 8 Rule 9(5) of the Supreme Court Rules which reads as follows, “Where an appeal has been set down for hearing and the court has become aware that a necessary party to the appeal is dead. The appeal shall be struck off the hearing list.”
Relying on this provision, Justice Mukthar consequently struck out the case.
The court of appeal sitting in Abuja had on November 17th threw out the party’s petition filed by its  presidential candidate Ambrose Owuru challenging  Yar’Adu’s election.

Owuru was dissatisfied and appealed to the Supreme Court. That was the second time the party would appeal to the Supreme Court on the same subject matter.
The petitioner had in his statement of claim asked the court to hold that Yar’Adua’s election was fraught with irregularities and that his election did not follow the provisions of  the Electoral Act 2006.

The Supreme Court had in its judgment delivered on the 27th of March, 2009 ordered a re-trial of the petition filed by Hope Democratic Party.
The apex court had also ordered the president of the court of appeal to reconstitute another panel to hear the matter afresh while at the same time ordering accelerated hearing of the petition.

When the hearing began at the appeal court as ordered by the apex court, the petitioner, Owuru said that the appellate court had violated the order of the Supreme Court which directed that the appeal be heard on merit.
Consequent upon this claim,  Owuru, on October 19, 2009 staged a walk- out on the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Owuru had urged the five- man Appeal Court Panel led by Justice Rabiu Danlami Mohammed to hear his application that the appeal be heard on merit as ordered by the Supreme Court.

Ruling on the petition at the Court of Appeal,  Justice Ayobode Lokulo Sodipe noted that the petition was struck out because the petitioner failed to comply with the provisions of Section 3 (1) of the election petition’s practice direction.
Justice Sodipe stated that the petitioner never filed any application for a pre-trial conference as required by the court’s practice direction in relation with election matters and therefore “there is no petition before the court”.

The court in striking out the petition cited the Supreme Court decision in Okereke Versus Yar’Adua reported in FWLR 2008 where it noted that the issue of “Practice direction has been laidd to rest by the Supreme Court”.
The court went further to say that in election petition matters relating to presidential, governorship and National Assembly, it was mandatory for the petitioner to apply for pre-hearing conference within the stipulated time and that failure to do so could not even be cured by application for extension of time.

Aside from striking the petition out for lack of jurisdiction, Justice Sodipe condemned the action of Owuru in staging a walk out on a court of law.

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