Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Supreme Court dismisses PDP’s suit against Shettima’s nomination

In a ruling delivered Friday by a five-man panel of the apex court, the court upheld the lower courts’ judgment and dismissed the appellants’ case.

• May 26, 2023
Vice-President-elect Kashim Shettima and Supreme Court of Nigeria
Vice-President-elect Kashim Shettima and Supreme Court of Nigeria

The Supreme Court has upheld the candidacy of Vice-President-elect Kashim Shettima and will not grant the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s request to nullify his joint candidacy with President-elect Bola Tinubu in the February 25 presidential election. 

In a ruling delivered Friday by a five-man panel, the court upheld the lower courts’ rulings and dismissed the appellants’ case because the suit constituted an abuse of court process and lack of locus standi, ii.e.: the opposition party had no right to file the suit. 

The court ruled that the sections of the law relied upon by the appellant cannot be used to interfere in the affairs of rival political parties, “no matter how disgruntled it is.” 

The judgment will now pave the way for Mr Tinubu’s inauguration as president on May 29, which has seen heightened preparation across the Nigerian capital Abuja in recent days.

The PDP had argued before the court that Mr Shettima’s selection as Mr Tinubu’s running mate after he had already purchased nomination forms to the Senate violated sections 29(1), 33, 35 and 84{1)}(2)} of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended).

The opposition argued that Mr Shettima, at the time of his nomination, had not resigned his candidacy in the Borno Central senatorial election. 

The case was first dismissed by the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court after Justice Inyang Ekwo ruled that the matter was an internal party affair and the claimant had not demonstrated that it had the locus standi to challenge the internal party affairs of the All Progressives Congress (APC). 

The Justice James Abundaga-led panel of the appellate court also dismissed the case, agreeing with the high court that the PDP failed to show that it had a lawful basis to dabble in the internal affairs of the APC.

Whereas the Supreme Court dismissed the suit, the decision was narrowly based on the PDP’s inability to claim damages and litigate issues considered to be internal affairs of another political party, the ruling APC in this case. 

When Mr Shettima allegedly entered double nomination, it was at the primary stage of political parties in 2022, several months before the general elections in February 2023. 

Courts have ruled previously that matters arising before an election should be considered internal affairs of respective political parties, which could only be challenged by party members in court and not members of a rival party. 

Supreme Court’s ruling today now leaves the PDP with the option of submitting evidence of nomination anomalies against the APC before the tribunal hearing post-election petitions in Abuja. 

The tribunals have previously invalidated elections over internal party irregularities before an election, including in Bayelsa in 2020, where APC politician David Lion was sacked from office by the Supreme Court after winning the governorship election because his running mate had filed bogus academic credentials with the electoral office INEC at the nomination stage.

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