Finality of the Decision of the Court of Appeal in Certain Cases By Gobir Habeeb Bolaji
Ordinarily, in every litigation with some exception, appeals lie from the decisions of the court of appeal to the Supreme court. Any dissatisfied party in a judgement delivered by the court of appeal has the constitutional right to appeal against such decision which must be exercise timeosly.
This is contain under section 233(1) of 1999 CFRN which provides thus:
” The Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction, to the exclusion of any other court of law in Nigeria, to hear and determine appeals from the Court of Appeal.”
However, certain decisions of the court of appeal on appeal lying to it, are final and not appealable to the supreme court. These are decisions of the court of Appeal on appeals arising from election petitions. For the purpose of clarity and avoidance of doubt, the position of the law in this regard will be examine and analyzed as obtainable both in the original 1999 CFRN and the amended version of 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
Historically speaking, there are two 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. The first one which will be henceforth, for the purpose of this article be referred to as the original constitution came into force on the 29th day of may, 1960. The second one is the 1999 CFRN (Second and third alteration) which was amended on the 24th day of July, 2010 and came into force on 10th January, 2011.
The position of both the original constitution and that of second and third alteration of 1999 constitution will be discussed separately below
POSITION OF THE ORIGINAL 1999 CONSTITUTION
Prior to the second alteration of the 1999 constitution, the court of appeal is regard to be the apex court with regard to it decisions on appeals arising from election petitions. It categorically and specifically rendered the decisions of the court of appeal to be final in respect of election petitions cases.
This position is circumscribed under section 246(3) of 1999 CFRN. The section provides thus:
” The decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of appeals arising from election petitions shall be final.”
From the wordings of the section provide above, it clearly shows and indicate that, the court of appeal is the apex and final court in respect of appeal arising from election petitions.
Also see the case of Dangana v. Usman (supra) where the supreme court,Per PETER-ODILI, J.S.C. state that:
“In short, by virtue of Section 246(1) (b) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution, the Court of Appeal has the mandate to decide an appeal arising from an election petition and shall be the final Court. Whether it did so perfectly, rightly or wrongly, the decision it arrives at cannot be taken on appeal to the Supreme Court for consideration. The Supreme Court cannot entertain appeals which it has no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon, once a Court has no jurisdiction, a party cannot use any statutory provision or common law principle to impose it because absence of jurisdiction is irreparable in law. The matter ends there”
However, section 246(3) operate with the exclusion of cases arising from presidential Election tribunal over which the court of appeal had original jurisdiction. It therefore follows that, the decision of the court of appeal in case of presidential election is appealable to the supreme court. It however serve as an exception to section 246(3) which rendered the decisions of court of appeal arising from election petitions to be final.
It should however to be noted that, the court of appeals remain the apex court with regard to all other appeals arising from election petitions. Example are appeals arising from the decisions of the National and state House of Assembly election petitions and Governorship election Tribunal. See the case of AWUSE V ODILI
POSITION OF THE LAW UNDER THE SECOND AND THIRD ALTERATION OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION
As stated earlier, with the second alteration and amendment of 1999 constitution, some of the sections of the constitution were altered to which section 246(3) is inclusive. Under this constitution, the finality of the decision of court of Appeal in case of election petitions was further restricted to some extent.
As distinct from what is obtainable under the original 1999 constitution, the amended constitution further exempt the finality of the court of Appeal with regard to it decision in cases emanating from Governorship election petitions. By so doing, an appeal arising from Governorship election petitions does not end at the court of Appeal, same is appealable to the supreme court.
This is provided under section 233(2) (e)(iv) of 1999 constitution as amended. The section provides thus
“(2) An appeal shall lie from the decisions of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court as of right in the following cases:- (e) Decisions on any question… (iv) Whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor or Deputy Governor under this constitution”
From the provision of the law stated above, it’s quite clear and understandable that the amended 1999 constitution vest the supreme court the jurisdiction to entertain appeal emanating from decision of the court of Appeal on Governorship election petition. This however remain the correct position of the law till date.
Similarly, with the third alteration of 1999 CFRN as amended, the court of Appeal was further clothed with power of finality in it decision in respect of appeal from National industrial court. In support of this is the provision of Section 243(4) of the third alteration which unequivocally and expressly made the Court of Appeal the final Court in respect of any civil appeal from the decision of the National industrial court. The section provides thus:
” Without prejudice to the provisions of section 254C (5) of this Act the decision of the Court of Appeal in respect of any appeal arising from any civil jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court shall be final.”
Also see the case of SKYE BANK v. IWU (2017) LPELR-SC.885/2014
DISTINCTION AND FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE IN THE PROVISIONS
It’s however important to point out the distinction and fundamental difference that exist in the original constitution and the second and third alteration.
Section 246(3) of the original1999 constitution maintained the finality of the decision of court of Appeal in respect of all election petitions cases, with the exclusion of Presidential election petitions. The reason being that, the court of Appeal is considered to be the court of first instance vested with the original jurisdiction to entertain case of that nature. All other elections petitions with the inclusion of Governorship election petitions end at the court of Appeal.
Section 233(2) (e) (iv) of the second alteration on the other hand, go further to exempt the finality of the decision of court of Appeal in respect of appeal arising from Governorship election petitions.
Section 243(4) of the third alteration further went ahead to cloth the court of appeal with power of finality in it decision in respect of appeal from National industrial court.
Haven discussed in details the position of the law with regard to the finality of decision of court of Appeal, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that, as far as the finality of the decision of court of Appeal is concern, it only take effect and applicable to it decision on election petitions case arising from National and state house of Assembly and appeals from National industrial court. See the case of SALIK V. IDRIS & ORS [2014- SUPREME COURT] With the second and third alteration of 1999 constitution.
The same alteration give birth to the exempt the power of finality of decision of court of Appeal in respect of appeals emanating from presidential and Governorship election petition. This is basically what is obtainable in our legal system and conventional court till date.
Gobir Habeeb Bolaji is a 300level law student of usmanu Danfodiyo university, sokoto(Udus)
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