Tuesday, 7 July 2015

INEC’s excision of Otukpa State Constituency in #Benue Upheld by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to excise Otukpa State Constituency of Benue.

Otukpa State Constituency within Ogbadigbo Local Government Area of Benue was excised and suppressed by INEC in 1996 under its statutory powers to delineate state constituencies.

In a unanimous judgment of a panel, led by Justice Suleiman Galadima, the apex court nullified the concurrent decisions of the Court of Appeal and Federal High Court, which upturned INEC’s action.

The court held that the 14 people from the excised constituency, who initiated the action in October, 2011, had slept on their right, by waiting for 15 years before seeking redress to the decision by INEC.

The court held that the statutory period for an aggrieved person to seek redress to a wrongdoing was three months.

It, therefore, held that the suit was “statute-barred, incompetent and unmeritorious, lacking in locus standi and jurisdiction and hereby struck out forthwith, without delving into its merits’’.

Specifically, Justice Galadima said: “The respondents’ suit is statute-barred, having been filed clearly outside the three months stipulated by law in Section 2 (a) of the Public Officers Protection Act.

“The essence or effect of the Public Officers Protection Act herein, is to extinguish the cause of action if it is commenced after the stipulated period, which is three months.

“In the light of the foregoing, I resolve this issue in favour of the appellant and set aside the findings of the two lower courts below and accordingly strike out the suit.

“The appeal is meritorious and, hereby, allowed as all the issues are resolved in favour of the appellant, and the respondents’ suit is set aside.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that 14 constituents of Otukpa State Constituency had on Oct. 25, 2011, challenged INEC’s decision to excise the constituency.

They contended that the state house of assembly was not properly constituted as required by the constitution without the suppressed constituency.

The constituents also said that INEC acted unfairly in refusing to include Otukpa Constituency, among others, suppressed constituencies the commission forwarded to National Assembly for approval for restoration.

INEC filed an objection to the suit contending that it was filed out of the three-month provision of Section 2 (a) of the Public Officers Protection Act.

The Federal High Court, Makurdi, had in its judgment of June 26, 2012, dismissed INEC’s preliminary objection on the ground that the respondents failed to comply with the Public Officers Protection Act.

Not satisfied with the court’s judgment, INEC proceeded to the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division, which, on Feb. 13, 2014, affirmed the trial court’s ruling and dismissed the appellant’s appeal.

Aggrieved by the decision of the appellate court, INEC approached the Supreme Court for final determination of the case.

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