MUTAIRU BALOGUN AMEOKOJA v. MOHAMED BELLO EYIOWUAWI (Abeokuta Suit No. AB/38/61) [1961] 10 (13 October 1961);

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  • MUTAIRU BALOGUN AMEOKOJA v. MOHAMED BELLO EYIOWUAWI (Abeokuta Suit No. AB/38/61) [1961] 10 (13 October 1961);

MUTAIRU BALOGUN AMEOKOJA (PETITIONER)

                                    v.

MOHAMED BELLO EYIOWUAWI (RESPONDENT)

                     (1961) All N.L.R. 834

 

Division: High Court (West)

Date of Judgment: 13th October, 1961

Case Number: Abeokuta Suit No. AB/38/61

Before: Charles, J.

 

Election Petition.

Within ten years preceding the 1961 District Council election for the Tayoku and Tongbunrin Ward, Local Government Area of the Ijebu Waterside District Council, the petitioner and the respondent had each been selected Bale of Ibiade by rival groups of persons each group claiming to be the appropriate body of kingmakers for the selection of a Bale. Each group put forward its nominee to the Chieftaincy Committee of the Council, the "prescribed authority" under Part III of the W.R. Chiefs Law for the determination of disputes relating to the appointment. Neither nominee appeared before the Committee. The Committee approved of the appointment of the petitioner; the respondent brought proceedings for an Order of Certiorari to quash the Committee's approval. In the Certiorari proceedings, which were still pending at the time of the hearing of this Petition, the respondent had alleged that the petitioner and himself were the only contestants for the office of Bale; that after his appointment by the proper kingmakers, certain chiefs purported to appoint his rival in the name of the kingmakers; and that he, the respondent, protested at the appointment but his protest was turned down.

Under cross-examination the respondent had stated that he protested by reporting to his selectors that his appointment had been rejected by the Chieftaincy Committee. Both the petitioner and the respondent were also candidates at the 1961 District Council election. The respondent having been elected, the petitioner brought this Petition for a declaration "that the respondent was not duly elected or that his election was void, and that the petitioner was duly elected and ought to have been returned." The petitioner alleged that the respondent was not qualified for election as he had, within a period of 10 years immediately before the date of the election, been concerned as an unsuccessful claimant in a dispute relating to the office of Bale and had not obtained the consent of the Governor-in-Council to stand for the election.

At the trial, it was urged on behalf of the respondent that he was not an "unsuccessful claimant" in a chieftaincy dispute" within the meaning of section 19(4) of the W.R. Local Government Law, as the Chieftaincy dispute was not one between himself and the petitioner and proceedings for the determination of the dispute were not taken by one candidate against the other but by one group of people claiming to be kingmakers against the other group.

HELD:

(1) A person, who lends his name to proceedings in order to enable others to obtain a determination on issues affecting them, of necessity becomes a party to the proceedings and he cannot both approbate a role which, if the proceedings terminate in favour of his sponsors, will alter his status; and subsequently reprobate that role if the proceedings terminate unfavourably to his sponsors; setting up that he was not a party but only a puppet for others.

(2) An appointee or nominee for chieftaincy office is not obliged to accept the appointment or nomination. If such a person allows his name to go forward for approval by the prescribed authority, and another name is also submitted by a rival group of nominators, he is a "party" to the resultant dispute.

(3) Where a disqualified person is elected in a District Council election, the votes cast for him do not count for any purpose; and his opponent is deemed to have been elected only if the facts giving rise to the disqualification were so notorious in themselves as not to require proof that they were within the knowledge of the electors, or the evidence clearly shows that those facts were brought to their knowledge; otherwise, the election is void and a new election must be held.

Petition allowed: Election of respondent declared null and void:

New election ordered.

Law referred to:-

W.R. Local Government Law, W.R. Cap. 68, section 19(1)(g), 19(4).

W.R. Chiefs Law, W.R. Cap. 19, section 18(3).

ELECTION PETITION.

Odedina for the Petitioner.

Craig for the Respondent.

Charles, J.:-This is a petition by an unsuccessful candidate at the election for the Tayoku and Tongbunrin Ward, Local Government Area, of the Ijebu Waterside District Council, which was held on the 1st July, 1961, praying for a declaration that the respondent was not duly elected or that his election was void, and that the petitioner was duly elected and ought to have been returned. The petition was presented on the ground that the respondent was not qualified for election as he had, within a period of ten years immediately before the date of the election, been concerned as an unsuccessful claimant in a dispute relating to the office of Bale of Ibiade and had not obtained the consent of the Governor-in-Council to stand for the election. Disqualification on that ground is imposed by section 19(1)(g) of the Local Government Law (Cap. 68, Laws of Western Nigeria 1959).

The relevant facts have not really been in dispute. As admitted or established by the evidence they are:-The challenged election was held on the 1st July, 1961, having been contested by two candidates, the petitioner and respondent; the latter was declared duly elected, having received 213 votes to the petitioner's 110; within the ten years preceding the election, the petitioner and respondent had been selected as the Bale of Ibiade by rival groups of persons, each claiming to be the appropriate body, or kingmakers, for the selection of a Bale; each group put forward its nominee to the Chieftaincy Committee of the Ijebu Waterside District Council, the prescribed authority under Part III of the Chiefs Law 1959 (W.R. Cap. 19) for exercising the powers conferred by that Part in respect of the appointment of the Bale of Ibiade and the determination of disputes relating thereto; the Chieftaincy Committee approved of the appointment of the petitioner; that neither nominee appeared before the Committee prior to its approval; the respondent did not have the approval of the Governor-in-Council to stand for the election; and proceedings for an order of certiorari to quash the approval, on the application of the respondent, are pending before this Court. The respondent in evidence denied that he and the petitioner had taken any part in the dispute between the rival groups until he, the respondent, had applied for the order of certiorari. The petitioner, in opposition to that denial, has sought to rely upon an Affidavit sworn to and filed by the respondent in support of his application for an order of certiorari as showing that the respondent was an active party to the dispute between the rival group of claimant appointers. The passages relied upon contain statements that the petitioner and respondent were the only contestants for the office of Bale; that after his appointment by the proper kingmakers certain chiefs purported to appoint his "rival" in the name of the kingmakers; and that he, the respondent, protested at the appointment but his protest was turned down. In cross-examination the respondent stated that he protested by reporting to his selectors that his appointment had been rejected by the Chieftaincy Committee, that is the prescribed authority.

Mr Craig submitted for the respondent that the evidence did not show that the latter had been a party to a dispute, and was an unsuccessful claimant, within the meaning of the words "dispute" and "unsuccessful claimant" as they are defined in section 19(4) of the Local Government Law, and that consequently the petitioner has failed to establish that the respondent was disqualified from election as alleged.

Section 19(4) of the Local Government Law is as follows:-

For the purposes of paragraph (g) of subsection (1) of this section-

"dispute" means a dispute in respect of which proceedings for its determination have been taken in accordance with the provisions of the Chiefs Law;

"unsuccessful claimant" means any party to a dispute who is not adjudged to be the duly appointed holder of the office of chief in question.

The argument of Mr Craig in support of his submission was, in effect, that for a person to be an unsuccessful claimant in a chieftaincy dispute in respect of which proceedings for its determination had been taken the dispute must have been one between him and another candidate as to the propriety of an appointment, and the proceedings for its determination must have been taken by one of the candidates; and that the evidence did not show that the petitioner and respondent had been parties to the dispute arising out of the appointment, or as taking any part in the proceedings for the determination of that dispute, but showed, at the most, that they were puppets in the hands of rival groups of persons claiming to be kingmakers between whom the dispute determined by the prescribed authority really was.

That argument, with all respect to Mr Craig, seems to be one which makes up in ingenuity what it lacks in reality. It was conceded by Mr Craig that an appointee or nominee for chieftaincy office is not obliged to accept the appointment or nomination. Consequently, if such a person allows his name to go forward for approval by the prescribed authority and another name is also submitted by a rival group of nominators, it seems to me to be juggling with words to say that he is not a party to the dispute which has resulted.

An examination of section 18 of the Chiefs Law confirms that criticism and shows the untenable nature of the submission for the plaintiff, I think. It is with reference to that section that the two definitions in section 19(4) of the Local Government Law must be read in determining the meaning of `party' in the definition of "unsuccessful claimant", since, by the definition of "dispute", the dispute must have been one which could be and was the subject of determination in proceedings under the Chiefs Law.

The only provision of section 18 which relates to the determination of chieftaincy disputes is subsection 3, which provides:-

Where there is a dispute whether a person has been appointed in accordance with customary law to a minor chieftaincy the prescribed authority may determine the dispute.

No provision is made for rival groups of persons purporting to be entitled under customary law to appoint or nominate a chief to have their conflicting claims, that is, their dispute, referred to the prescribed authority for determination in the abstract. They can only have their dispute referred for determination by each purporting to appoint or nominate a candidate and letting the prescribed authority determine their dispute by reference to the validity of their respective appointments or nominations. The appointees or nominees may be only nominal parties to the dispute but as they will be the parties with reference to whom the determination of the dispute will be made, and will be the persons directly and immediately affected by the determination, they are just as much parties to the dispute and proceedings before the prescribed authority as are nominal parties to an action at common law. A person who lends his name to proceedings in order to enable others to obtain a determination on issues affecting them, of necessity becomes a party to the proceedings and he cannot both approbate a role which, if the proceedings terminate in favour of his sponsors, will alter his status and subsequently reprobate it, if the proceedings terminate unfavourably to his sponsors, by setting up that he was not a party but only a puppet for others. If an appointee or nominee does not wish to incur as a party the consequences of failure in proceedings before the prescribed authority he should decline or resign or withdraw from, his appointment or nomination and let those seeking a decision as "kingmakers" appoint or nominate someone else for the role of nominal party. In this case the respondent's attitude smacks of insincerity. In effect he says that he was not concerned with whether or not he became Bale until his appointment was not approved, whereupon he became so concerned at the adverse decision that he was then only moved to become a disputant seeking to have it quashed by certiorari.

For the foregoing reasons I find that at the date of the election the respondent was a person who was disqualified from being elected by reason that he was an unsuccessful claimant in a chieftaincy dispute and that his election was void on that account.

The question then arises whether the election itself should be held void and a new election ordered or the petitioner should be declared to have been elected. The petitioner has pleaded that the election was not void but that he is to be deemed to have been duly elected as he had warned the electors that the respondent was a disqualified person and that any votes cast for him would be thrown away. Evidence was given in support of that plea.

The relevant law appears to be that where a disqualified person is elected the votes cast for him are thrown away, and his opponent is deemed to be elected if, but only if, the facts giving rise to the disqualification were so notorious as not to require proof that they were within the knowledge of the electors, or the evidence clearly shows that those facts were brought to the knowledge of the electors; otherwise the election is void and a new election must be held: (See In re Parliamentary Election for Bristol South East, (1961) 3 W.L.R. 577 and authorities therein discussed at 601 et seq.) I am not satisfied either by the evidence of the petitioner himself and of his supporting witness, or by that evidence considered with regard to the manner and demeanour of the witnesses in giving their evidence, that the electors were warned or adequately warned that the respondent was a disqualified person and that votes cast for him would be thrown away. As the facts giving rise to the respondent's disqualification were not notorious in themselves, it follows that the election must be held void.

There shall be a certificate to the Electoral Office that the respondent was not duly elected, that the election was void, and that a new election is necessary.

Petition allowed: Election of Respondent declared void: New election ordered.