LIMITATION LAW – Computation of time stipulated by Section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution – When the 14 days stipulated for filing pre-election matters begins to run – Whether knowledge of the claimant has a role to play in computation of time

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It has been argued strenuously by the appellant that the cause of action only accrued when she got wind of the fact of Chief Augustine C. Umahi’s withdrawal of his nomination and this was when her attention was drawn to the filing of the 1st respondent’s suit on 19th July 2022 or that at best she had constructive notice of the withdrawal and reconduct of the election by the publication of those facts in the 1st respondent’s Originating Summons filed on 7th July 2022. It is therefore contended that the counter claim filed on 20th July 2022 was filed within the limited period, whichever date was used for the calculation. A similar argument was made in the case of Jafar Sani Bello Vs Abba K. Yusuf & Ors. (2019) LPELR-47918 (SC), where, in reaction to a preliminary objection to the Competence of the appellant’s suit at the trial court filed outside the 14 days prescribed in Section 285(9) of the Constitution, the appellant contended that his cause of action accrued from the date he became aware that the 1st respondent in that case had not fulfilled the conditions for rejoining the party (Peoples Democratic Party) and not the date on which the primary election was conducted. His Lordship, M.D Muhammad, JSC who wrote the leading judgment held thus at pages 18-20 D – A: I am unable to agree with learned counsel that the appellant’s cause of action begins to run, by virtue of the limitation period prescribed under section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution, as altered, from the time he becomes aware of 1s respondent’s non-compliance, which, on the latter’s participation in the primary election, creates appellant’s right to sue. The clear and unambiguous section neither makes knowledge on the part of the appellant a pre-condition to the filing of his action nor excludes the date his cause of action accrues in the determination of when time begins to run against him. By the section the appellant’s knowledge of 1st respondent’s non-compliance with 2nd respondent’s constitution and Electoral Guidelines is immaterial. To hold that time begins to run against the appellant only upon his becoming aware of 1 respondent’s non-compliance and further excluded the date the appellant’ cause of action accrues, in determining when limitation begins to run against him is to read into the section what it does not contain. No court has the jurisdiction of doing so. By the section, the limitation period is 14 days and since neither knowledge nor the date of the accrual of the cause of action is made a precondition for the determination of the period, the lower court in excluding appellant’s knowledge of 1st respondent’s non-compliance and taking into cognizance the date his cause of action arises in its computation of e limitation is beyond reproach.” Hon. Justice Mary U. Peter-Odili, JSC in his concurring judgment, copiously referred to by the lower court held inter alia at pages 29-30 A C: “It is difficult to push forward the position as espoused by the appellant that the cause of action arose when the appellant realised or got the knowledge of the event or issue. The reason is simple and logical as it is to render uncertain and tied to peoples’ convenience whenever a party decides to activate a court process depending on his subjective whim. The implication being that the statute of Imitation would begin to run at the point when the plaintiff/appellant in this instance, puts across as time of becoming aware of the happening of the event that he is aggrieved over. That position of uncertainty will aid indolence and give a on sided subjective advantage to a party to the detriment of the other side. It is now trite and even an over flogged cliché that equity does not aid the indolent. That is to say, if such a subjective stance is allowed to stand, it would encourage and breed uncertainty in the polity and create the ludicrous situation where a person can wake up a year or more after an election and Swearing into an elective position to have a challenge to his nomination by way of substitution for [an] election that brought the person to power.. The law cannot recognise or endorse such a speculative situation and so every stake holder must be watchful or vigilant of his legal rightsI think the point has been sufficiently made that the knowledge of the appellant has no role to play in the computation of time for the purpose of Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Equity aids the vigilant.” Per K.M.O KEKERE-EKUN, JSC in EZE V. UMAHI & 3ORS (2022-LCER-46647-SC) @Pp. 24-28, E – B.

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LIMITATION LAW – Computation of time stipulated by Section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution – When the 14 days stipulated for filing pre-election matters begins to run – Whether knowledge of the claimant has a role to play in computation of time

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