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Conflicting Judgments of Lower Courts Can Endanger Democracy – Constitutional Lawyer, Bwala

Posted by Thandiubani on Mon 04th Dec, 2023 -

He said such pre-election matters according to the apex court could only be determined at the Federal High Court, prior to elections.

Constitutional lawyer, Daniel Bwala has condemned the conflicting judgements by lower courts in Nigeria.
He called on the Supreme Court to avert anarchy by setting the records straight on the superiority of its judgment on the incapacity of election tribunals to look into pre-election cases.
According to him, the decision of the Court of Appeal to take over jurisdiction in the pre-election matters concerning the Plateau State elections could be a threat to judicial order as it could set a pattern for lower courts to undermine settled law as pronounced by the apex court.
Bwala spoke on AIT’s Kaakai programme on Monday morning while discussing the decision of the Court of Appeal to annul the election of Governor Caleb Mutfwang based on the claim that his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP did not have a structure in the state.
Bwala while putting aside the settled precedence of the Supreme Court that the APC was an interloper by questioning the nomination of candidates by the PDP said the court had already settled the issue of pre-election matters being outside the purview of election tribunals.
He said such pre-election matters according to the apex court could only be determined at the Federal High Court, prior to elections.
He said: “It is important that the judiciary should set the records straight because once the Supreme Court has settled a matter you have no choice, you have to follow it.”

“Because there is a precedent, we are saying, how can the Supreme Court say this is it and this court did not abide by the decision of the Supreme Court because we are told that under the doctrine of judicial precedence, courts are bound by the decisions of superior courts.

“If the Supreme Court says…once the law is settled by the decision of the Supreme Court it becomes a law that cannot be changed except the legislature in the next legislative cycle passes a law to change it.

“That law is binding on authorities and also binding on courts below them and it becomes a final law and any disobedience to that attracts the anger of the courts.

“In the days of the late Hon Justice Niki Tobi, they were very jealous in guiding the integrity of their court. That if any court below them gives a decision that is contrary to a precedent that they have made they have not failed to chastise the lower court. That is because they want stability in the legal profession, stability in democracy because if the Supreme Court decides in a certain direction and courts below them decide on another way, it can create a great deal of instability, it can destroy democracy because what it means is that there is no order in judicial precedence in a country”, he maintained.

“And it is constitutional and not just a matter of the Electoral Act. Section 287 says that the judgment of the Supreme Court is binding on all courts and the Supreme Court on that issue has settled that pre-election matters cannot be entertained by election tribunals either at the trial level or at the appellate level. They set an example when pre-election matters were brought before them.

“Even at the Court of Appeal sitting as a trial court in the Presidential Election tribunal they said they lacked jurisdiction to entertain pre-election matters and when it got to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court maintained the same position.

“So, why should the Plateau be different? He asked.

“It cannot be different because the decision of the Supreme Court has to be obeyed.”

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