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ALHAJI HARUNA KASSIM
 NSCC 11
ELECTION PETITION:- Challenge of an election result – Statutory prescription as to time in which petition to be brought or any order to be made – Duty of court in the interpretation of statutes pertaining to political elections – Northern House of Assembly (Elected members) Electoral Regulation, 1956, reg. 140 – How treated
BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS:
FOSTER SUTTON, F.C.J.
C.A.J. Nwajei – for Appellant.
J.C.S. Hughes, A.G.F. Rasak with him, – for Respondent.
INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE:- Interpretation of an Election Statute – Where words of a statute are clear and unambiguous – – Northern House of Assembly (Elected members) Electoral Regulation, 1956, reg. 140 -Duty of court thereto
FOSTER SUTTON, F.C.J.
These proceedings originated in an application ex parte under regulation 140 of the Northern House of Assembly (Elected Members) Electoral Regulations, 1956, for an order by the High Court, Kano, fixing the security to be given by the appellant who was the intending petitioner in an Election Petition against the election of the Respondent as a Member of the Northern House of Assembly.
The result of the election was published in the Northern Region of Nigeria Gazette No. 56 of 17th November, 1956, the application asking the Court to fix the amount of security to be given was filed on 14th December, 1958, and it came before the Court for hearing on the 19th December, 1956. Regulation 140 (3) reads:
“No motion or other application for any order under paragraph (2) shall be made or filed, nor shall any such order be made, at any time after the expiration of the month from the publication of the result of the election of the member of the House of Assembly to which the petition relates.”
The learned trial Judge held that the regulation precluded him from making the order prayed because more than one month had expired since the Gazette publication of the result of the election of the respondent. He accordingly dismissed the application, and it is against that decision this appeal was lodged.
On behalf of the appellant it was submitted that the trial Judge erred in holding that it was competent for him to make such an order since the motion praying for it was filed within the period of the month stipulated by the regulation; and that he misdirected himself in law by holding that the regulation in question can only be construed to mean that not only must such a motion be filed within the time limited, but any order thereon must also be made within the same period.
It seems to me beyond argument that the words: “nor shall any such order be made, at any time after the expiration of one month from the publication of the result of the election of the member of the House of Assembly to which the petition relates”, are clear and unequivocal, capable of only one meaning, that held by the learned trial Judge. In other words, they mean what they say, that no order shall be made after the stipulated period.
The underlying principle is that the meaning and intention of legislation must be collected from the plain and unambiguous expressions used therein rather than from any notions which may be entertained as to what is just or expedient.
That the legislative authority intended the result stated seems perfectly clear if regard be had to the fact that regulation 142 (2) of the above-mentioned regulations expressly applies the Supreme Court (Election Petitions) Rules of Court, 1951, rule 4 (1) of which requires an intending petitioner to apply by motion ex parte for an order as to the amount of security to be given by him, before he presents his election petition, and to avoid any delay in the hearing of the motion sub-rule (2) of the same rule provides that any such application shall, “in respect of the right to priority of hearing by the Court, enjoy (save as prescribed in section 234 of the Customs Ordinance) precedence over all other proceedings, whether civil or criminal, and whether part heard or not”.
If a petitioner chooses to delay commencing his proceedings until the last moment he has only himself to blame if he finds himself out of time, and if a Judge is not available at the Court in whose Registry the motion is filed in is the business of the petitioner and of the Registrar to ensure that the motion is taken before the nearest available Judge having jurisdiction to deal with the matter.
It is obviously desirable that there should not be undue delay in a matter of this kind, and having regard to the precedence which the rules require to be given to such motions I do not think it can reasonably be said that the legislation in question creates any hardship.
For the reason stated I would dismiss this appeal with costs fixed at 30 guineas.
DE LESTANG, F.J.