Supreme Court In Benue Upholds Cancellation of Benue State Assembly Seat, More Details Here

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Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly

The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the Otukpa Constituency seat from the Benue State House of Assembly.
The court’s decision finally laid to rest the move by a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who is now a leader in the All Progressives Congress (APC), and some other leaders of his Otukpo community in Benue State, to get the constituency restored.
Although the community lost the case on technical grounds, the Supreme Court advised INEC not to ignore the people’s complaint.
The court nullified the judgments of the two lower courts which had ordered INEC to restore the constituency.
Justice Suleiaman Galadima, who delivered the lead judgment of the five-man panel, struck out the suit and upheld the appeal filed by the INEC on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to institute the suit within three months of the said excision and suppression of the constituency in 1996 but waited for 15 years to complain about the alleged wrong.
Otukpa Constituency was said to have elected its first representative to the state House of Assembly in 1979 and subsequently elected two others to occupy the seat until the constituency was “excised and suppressed” in 1996.
The number of seats in the Benue State House of Assembly would have increased from 29 to 30 if the suit had been successful at the apex court.
The Supreme Court upheld INEC’s argument that the suit instituted on October 25, 2011, about 15 years after the constituency had been suppressed had been caught by statute of limitation.
Justice Suleiman Galadima, who read the lead judgment, held that both the Makurdi Divisions of the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal were wrong to have assumed jurisdiction in the suit.
According to him, by virtue of section 2(a) of the Public Officer’s Protection Act such action against public officers should have been filed within three months when the alleged wrong was done.
Justice Galadima held: “It is clear from the above judicial views on the basis of limitation law, once a defence of limitation of time is stated and grounded in the averments in support of the summons, (as in this case at hand) and it is established), this bars the plaintiffs, remedy and extinguishes the right of his action; then the court will wash off its hands and decline to entertain the action.
“This in effect means that there is absolutely no basis for prying into the conduct of the appellant howsoever which gave rise to the action, even as being suggested here by the learned counsel for the respondents.
“In the light of the foregoing, I resolve this issue in favour of the appellant (INEC) and set aside the findings for the two courts below on this issue and accordingly strike out the suit.”
Ogbadigbo Local Government, its chairman, Otukpa community, member representing them in House of Representatives, and some other representatives of the Otukpa community, including Ogbeh and the local government, had instituted the suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja on October 25, 2011.
The suit was later transferred to the Markurdi Division of the Federal High Court which on February 13, 2014 granted the plaintiffs’ prayers which was an “an order directing or compelling the defendant (INEC) to restore the suppressed Otukpa State Constitutency in Ogbadigbo Local Government Area.”
The Federal High Court had held that by virtue of the excision and suppression of the Otukpa community, the Benue State House of Assembly was not properly constituted or composed as required by Sections 91 and 112 of the 1999 Constitution.
The court held that INEC acted “improperly and unfairly” regarding the provisions of the law in refusing or failing to include the suppressed Otukpa State Constituency in Ogadigbo Local Government among the names of the suppressed state constituencies it forwarded to the National Assembly for approval for restoration.”
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Federal High Court, INEC had appealed against it the Court of Appeal in Markurdi.
The Court of Appeal on June 26, 2012 affirmed the judgment of the lower court holding that the provisions of the Public Officer’s Protection Act was not applicable because the suppression of the said Otukpa Constituency had continued.
The INEC further appealed to the Supreme Court, which of Friday held that the lower court (Court of Appeal) lacked the power to hinge its decision on such reasoning raised on its own (suo moto) without entertaining hearing on it from parties.
But Justice Galadima said even when the issue could not be resolved by law, INEC should endeavourr to “fairly” look into the concerns of those calling for its attention on the issue of suppression of their constituencies across the country.”

culled from benue.com.ng 

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Benue Blog Portal: Supreme Court In Benue Upholds Cancellation of Benue State Assembly Seat, More Details Here
Supreme Court In Benue Upholds Cancellation of Benue State Assembly Seat, More Details Here
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