Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Odogwu of Ibusa, Delta State
Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Leader, International Coalition against Christian Genocide in Nigeria (ICAC-GEN)
Email: Nwaezeigwe.firstname.lastname@example.org Website: https://icac-gen.org
Date: September 28, 2023
In a very fascinating finality of verdict, Henry Ward Beecher had this to say about corrupt Judges:
“Take all the robes of all the good judges that have ever lived on the face of the earth, and they would not be large enough to cover the iniquity of one corrupt judge.”
Similarly, in the words of the iconic “Socrates” of the Supreme Court of Nigeria Justice Okwudifu Oputa:
If you are a judge and you are corrupt, where do we go from here? Then everything has come to a halt. If the legislature is corrupt, you go to the judiciary for redress. If the executive is corrupt you go to the judiciary for remedy.
This is the precipitous dilemma Nigeria finds herself today as a nation.
In anchoring their fictitious Black market-style judgment on the wobbling ground of “Issue Estoppel”, Justice Haruna Tsammani and his cohorts had stated:
It is trite law that for a judgment of a Court to constitute estoppel in a subsequent action, it must have finally decided the same issue in contention between the same parties or their privies. See: Anchorage Leasures LTD & ORS v ECOBANK NIG LTD (2023) lpelr-59978 (SC) at pages 12-13, paras. C-A; and ADEDAYO v BABALOLA & ORS (1995) LPELR-85- (SC) AT page 24, para. A.
From the averments contained in the Petitioners’ Petition which I have earlier reproduced above, it is clear that the Petitioners’ allegation of non-compliance averred in ground 2 of the Petition is hinged on the contention that INEC “was mandatorily required to electronically transmit or transfer the results of the Poling units directly to the collation system of the 1st Respondent” and also “mandatorily required to use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of Form EC8A to the 1st Respondent’s Result Viewing Portal (iRev) in real time.” (See paragraphs 37 and 45 of the Petition Quoted above).
First, it is evident that in both this Petition and in Exhibit X1 the parties are the same, in that 2nd Petitioner herein was the sole Plaintiff in Exhibit X1, while the 1st Respondent herein was the sole Defendant in Exhibit X1.
Secondly, from the above referred averments in this Petition and the reliefs sought by the 2nd Petitioner in Exhibit X1, it is clear that the issue in both cases is whether the 1st Respondent herein is mandatorily required to electronically transmit or transfer election results from the polling unit direct to the collation system. With the judgment of the Federal High Court in Exhibit X1, the excerpt of which has been reproduced above, it is evident that the Federal High Court had decided this issue against the Petitioners herein, by holding that the 1st Respondent cannot be compelled to electronically transmit election results.
Now, since the judgment was based on “Issue Estoppel” and not on “Cause of Action Estoppel”, let us begin by first defining “Issue Estoppel.” According to LexisNexis:
Issue estoppel arises where a particular issue(s), forming a necessary ingredient in a cause of action, has been litigated and decided in a first action and, in subsequent proceedings between the same parties involving a different cause of action to which the same issue is relevant, one of the parties seeks to reopen that particular issue(s).
The question here is, are the averments of Labour Party in Federal High Court in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC the same as the second averment of the same Labour Party and Peter Obi in the Presidential Election Petitions Court? In other words, are the two prayers the same in terms of form, meaning, and objectives, as to be treated as “Issue Estoppel?” Even though this question was earlier addressed, but it becomes pertinent to recast it against the background of the above four paragraphs of their ruling on Estoppel.
In a Supreme Court Judgment in Suit No. S.C. 190/2003: S.O. Ntuks & ORS v Nigerian Ports Authority, delivered by Ikechi Francis Ogbuagu, J.S.C. on Friday, the 11th day of May 2007, the Court fervently held:
In a line of decided authorities, it is now firmly settled that where a court of competent jurisdiction, has settled by a final decision, the matters in dispute between the parties, none of the parties or his privy, may re-litigate that issue again by bringing a fresh action. The matter is said to be res judicata. The estoppel created, is one by record inter parties.
First, let us begin with the two authorities cited by the Justices of the Presidential Election Petitions Court. It is my considered opinion strongly supported by the grounds on which the judgments of the two cited authorities were respectively based, that it was an act of moronic conjecture guided by provocative mischief and debased moral judgment for these five Judges of the Presidential Election Petitions Court to have compared them with the judgment of the Federal High Court in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC and “Issue 2” of the Labour Party and Peter Obi’s prayers in the Presidential Election Petitions Court, on which they subsequently anchored their Estoppel judgment.
The suit: ANCHORAGE LEISURES LTD & ORS v ECOBANK NIG LTD (2023) cited by the Justices was an issue on debt recovery which started from the High Court, moved up to the Appeal Court, and subsequently ended in the Supreme Court. In this suit therefore, “Issue Estoppel” had a strong ground to be rested upon. This is however not the same circumstance with Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC as applied to “Issue 2” of Labour Party and Peter Obi’s prayers in the Presidential Election Petitions Court.
Indeed going by paragraph 2 of the Judgment of Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC which is re-quoted below, it is a truism that what Labour Party and Peter Obi prayed against was INEC’s non-compliance with the same Judgment, and not a re-litigation on the same issue. It is not a matter of compelling INEC to comply with standing laws as par the above suit rather it was a question of INEC failing to obey its guiding laws and its own regulations and guidelines. Compelling you to obey the law and reporting you for disobedience of the same law cannot be the same. The judgment reads in part:
If any, the Commission is only mandated to collate and transfer election results and number of accredited voters in a way or manner deemed by it. In view of the above, I am finding that the provisions of Section 50(2) and 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022, the correct interpretation of the said Statute is that the Defendant (Independent National Electoral Commission) is at liberty to prescribe the manner in which election results could be transmitted and I so hold. Consequently, this matter is hereby dismissed.
It is clear from the above excerpt of the judgment that there is no paragraph specifically indicating the freedom of INEC to use manual means of transmission of election results. The Court simply said INEC has the freedom to choose any manner in which election results should be collated and transmitted. The question that arises therein is, what was the ultimate and officially accredited choice of INEC for the transmission of election results? Was it by manual transmission?
The issue before the Presidential Election Petitions Court therefore is nothing more and nothing less, the fact that the same INEC in obedience to the judgment in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC, freely and without compulsion, chose BVAS and later discarded the same BVAS without notice. Yet a Court of Justice of Appeal Court status decided to keep a blind eye on the issue of this blatant contempt of the orders of a Federal High Court by clandestinely seeking a devious legal refuge in “Estoppel.”
Now let us take a look at the second authority relied upon by these Justices of the Presidential Election Petitions Court, in deciding their contentious application of Estoppel. The matter in ADEDAYO v BABALOLA & ORS (1995) was the contest for the traditional kingship of Elesie of Esie in Irepodun Local Government Council Area of Kwara State, which was tried at the Kaduna Division of the Appeal Court, with the Judgment read by Hon. Justice J. Fabiyi on 24 March, 1988 based on the “issue Estoppel.”
The basis of the argument for “Issue Estoppel” in that judgment is that the issue of the right of succession to the traditional kingship of Elesie of Esie had earlier been decided in a previous suit on land dispute and as such cannot be re-litigated. This is clearly a well-grounded conditionality for the application of Estoppel.
Defining the basis on which Estoppel was granted in ADEDAYO v BABALOLA & ORS (1995), Hon. Justice Ogwuegbu, J.S.C. who read the Supreme Court Judgment held:
It is the contention of the respondents that in the earlier case, it was decided that the plaintiff/appellant’s family is not a ruling family as far as the Elesie Chieftaincy is concerned. I have to emphasize that within one cause of action, there may be several issues raised which are necessary for the determination of the whole case. The rule is that once an issue has been raised and distinctly determined between the parties, then, as a general rule, neither party can be allowed to fight that issue all over again. Issue estoppel may arise where a plea of res judicata could not be established because the cause of action are not the same. See Fidelitas Shipping Co. Ltd. v. V/O Export Chleb (1965) 2 All E.R. 4 at 8-9, Fadiora v. Gbadebo (1978) 3 S.C. 219 at 228; Thoday v. Thoday (1964) 1 All E.R 341; Aro v. Fabolude (1983) 1 SCNLR 58; and Hoystead & Ors. v. Commissioner of Taxation (1926) A.C. 155 at 170. In the earlier case, the issue whether Agbonbifa family is a Ruling family was distinctly put in issue and it was solemnly determined against them. The issue whether the appellant’s family had ever ruled over Esie to establish its claim of first settler arose in the earlier proceedings.
Paragraph 2 of the Abuja Federal High Court Judgment on Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC, raised the issue of the freedom of INEC to decide the manner of transmitting or transferring election results, without concurrently granting the same INEC the freedom and powers to disregard the same manner it officially declared to follow. The question here is, was the issue of INEC’s freedom to disregard the same manner it chose for the transmission of election results “distinctively determined” as par the above authority cited by the judges in support of the Estoppel, vis-à-vis INEC’s freedom to disobey its own rules and regulations?
In the second paragraph of their judgment on Estoppel, the Presidential Election Petitions Judges assumed in their unethical conjecture that, “it is clear that the Petitioners’ allegation of non-compliance averred in ground 2 of the Petition is hinged on the contention that INEC ‘was mandatorily required to electronically transmit or transfer the results of the Poling units directly to the collation system of the 1st Respondent’ and also ‘mandatorily required to use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of Form EC8A to the 1st Respondent’s Result Viewing Portal (iRev) in real time.’”
The above hawked opinion of Labour Party and Peter Obi by Justice Haruna Tsammi and his colleagues is no doubt a fixated assumption based on eclectic dubious intentions because the matter before them was not rested on assumption but on factual disobedience of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the Electoral Act, 2022, and INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of 2023 General elections.
And if their judgment were to be morally and equitably and affirmatively based on the Abuja Federal High Court Judgment in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC, then they should likewise have understood that it was a matter fundamentally anchored on INEC’s deliberate refusal to obey its own manner of transmitting results of elections as affirmed by the same Abuja Federal High Court, and not the re-litigation of the same suit. It therefore follows that their contention that the application of Estoppel formed the basic leg on which their judgment stands in this respective, is suspect of corruption, frivolous, laughable, unethical, and lacking in the basic ingredients of rule of law founded on equity.
If we even decide to place this imputation on the scale of the doctrine of Estoppel, we will discover that, whereas the argument on Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC is anchored on “Issue Estoppel”, the trend of the Presidential Election Petitions Court is anchored on “Cause of Action Estoppel”. In the same Supreme Court authority, ADEDAYO v BABALOLA & ORS (1995) they Biblically and Quranically relied upon, Hon. Justice Ogwuegbu, J.S.C. affirmed ipso facto:
As to the subject matter, the application before the trial court was based on issue estoppel as distinct from cause of action estoppel. The earlier suit was for declaration of customary right of occupancy to a parcel of land whereas the present proceedings concern the setting aside of the installation of the 1st defendant as the Elesie of Esie and a declaration that the next Elesie of Esie be selected from Agbonbifa Ruling House amongst other reliefs.
The question arising herewith is, if the judgment in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC affirmed that INEC cannot be compelled by Labour Party to abide by the provisions of Electoral Laws, did the same judgment affirmed at the same time that INEC is not subject to Electoral Laws, 2022, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, and the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of 2023 General Elections? Did the judgment also, while affirming that INEC has the right to choose any method desirable to her to transmit election results, affirm that the same INEC is at liberty to disobey the same method introduced by her?
Furthermore, the assertion by Justice Haruna Tsimmani and his cohorts that both parties in the Abuja Federal High Court Judgment on Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC, and Presidential Elections Petitions Court are the same, is nothing but a case of one half-truth taken to a demonstrative disgusting and shameless level. How can an Appeal Court Judge say that a Presidential Election in which Labour Party in conjunction with her Presidential candidate, Peter Obi sued INEC, APC, its Presidential candidate and the Vice Presidential candidate is the same with Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC?
For the five Justices of the Presidential Election Petitions Court to unanimously affirm that the subject matter in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022: Labour Party v INEC is the same with that of issue 2 of the Labour Party and Peter Obi prayers, is a clear affirmation of the debasing extent to which the Nigerian Judiciary has become intellectually bankrupt and morally corrupt.
I don’t know the universities these five Judges of the Appeal Court attended and how they were subsequently appointed Judges up to the rank of Appeal Court. But all I have to say is that by the above analysis and the resulting judgment, one is in no doubt as to their abysmal level of collective intelligence quotient (IQ). This can however be excused on the ground that there is no special legal examination for one to become a High Court Judge of the High Court in Nigeria. All you need to have is ten years of experience as a legal practitioner and relevant dubious political connections. So one’s level of intelligence is not necessary for the appointment of High Court Judges, Appeal Court Judges and, Supreme Court Judges.
Indeed, when the foregoing excerpts cum analysis of the judgment are juxtaposed with the respective submissions of the defence counsels, it becomes evident that neither the judges wrote the judgment, nor were the submissions of the defence counsels factually consistent with the substance of the legal arguments on Estoppel, thus hazarding the possibility that the Judgment might have been the product of a third party. And if as it was widely speculated that it was Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, who authored the judgment on behalf of the judges, then it goes further to reveal how morally bankrupt those close to Bola Ahmed Tinubu are.
To be continued.