Heads of court must prevent politicians from abuse of court process.


PDP v. Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff & Ors. [2017] 15 NWLR (Pt. 1588) 219 at 279-280, paras. F-B, per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC:

“The 1st respondent and his allies filed over ten suits. The Court of Appeal had this to say. The 1st appellant (i.e. 1st respondent) I agree displayed an infantile desperation to cling to office at all costs. I agree with the observation of the Court of Appeal. The 1st respondent was always driven by the implacable desire to remain in office as chairman at all cost. That desire was explored relentlessly by filing over ten suits within one year to perpetrate himself in office. Most of those suits have been abandoned. They shall forever gather dust in judicial archives and remain dusty reminders of how not to seek judicial remedy. The stakes are very high in political matters. So, if allowed, political office seekers would not hesitate to file multiplicity of suits on the same subject matter, hoping to get a favourable judgment from one court or the other. Their quest for this includes forum shopping. Heads of court must by now be aware of this trend and stop this annoying practice of assigning cases on the same subject matter to different judges, who very likely would render conflicting decisions, ending up making the judiciary a laughing stock. Trial judges must also be on the lookout, and refrain from proceeding with any case when aware that his brother judge is handling a similar matter.”

Ali Modu Sheriff

Blogger’s Note:

The facts of the above case touching on the tussle for the leadership position (National Chairman) of the Appellant party, PDP, are very much in the public domain. We will not bother with that here save to mention that after much controversy, the Supreme Court ousted the 1st Respondent from the position of the National Chairman.

Our major concern here is that during the period of the battle, the 1st Respondent caused several “abusive actions” to be instituted on his behalf which the apex Court found to be up to ten, in “an infantile desperation to cling to office at all costs” and perpetually too. How was that possible? While we continue to wonder, the Supreme Court has a made a policy statement to guide lower courts, especially Heads of court, having the responsibility to assign cases. The apex Court has directed that Heads of court must “stop this annoying practice of assigning cases on the same subject matter to different judges”. Conscious effort must therefore be made especially in political cases. Even trial Judges have been advised to always be on the lookout in order to avoid conflicting decisions.

Supreme Court of Nigeria

Most importantly, many Nigerian politicians who seek leadership positions have constantly failed to display any character worthy of emulation. The saddest part is that through abuse of court process (by multiplicity of suits), some politicians like the 1st Respondent have really brought the judiciary to a state of ridicule. I. T. Muhammad, JSC, in delivering his opinion emphasised the need for the interests of citizens to be first and foremost in the minds of politicians. He said:

“…It is time in this country those in politics realised that Nigeria is greater than anybody. The larger interests of the citizen should be first and foremost in the mind of anyone who stands out in the name of fellow countrymen, rather than advancing the glory of self aggrandisement. It will be a disservice to the society or community who sponsored one for one to fire the embers of hatred, disunity and self-centredness…”

See page 291-292 of the report.

Photo credit: dailypost.ng

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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