The appellant was a candidate duly nominated by the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) to contest in the Ugelli North Constituency II of the Delta State House of Assembly but was unlawfully excluded and substituted with one Edoja Rufus Akpodiete who eventually won the election and proceeded to represent the constituency. Being a pre-election matter, the appellant approached the Election Petition Tribunal for redress. The matter went up to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in October 2014, restored the appellant’s mandate and further made consequential orders. One of the orders was that the removed Edoja Rufus Akpodiete refunds to the coffers of the Delta State House of Assembly all the money he collected by way of salaries and allowances in whatever manner since he took office as a member of the Delta State House of Assembly under the pretext of being the duly elected candidate of Democratic People’s Party (DPP) representing Ughelli North constituency II, within ninety (90) days of the court’s order. The appellant was dissatisfied and went back to the Supreme Court by filing an application asking it to vary or correct the consequential order. After hearing the application, the court varied the order to the effect that instead of paying the money earned as salaries and allowances to the Delta State House of Assembly, the removed Edoja Rufus Akpodiete was to pay everything to the appellant.
In order to enforce the ruling, the appellant commenced garnishee proceedings at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division against Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), the bankers of the removed lawmaker who were in custody of money belonging to him. The appellant stated that the judgment sum was N490,803.002 (Four Hundred And Ninety Million, Eight Hundred And Three Thousand, Two Naira). After hearing the application, the order nisi was made absolute in the sum of N83,256,648.71 (Eighty Three Million, Two Hundred And Fifty Six Thousand, Six Hundred And Forty Eight Naira, Seventy One Kobo). The appellant also filed another application for garnishee proceedings against the 1st respondent and the 2nd respondent asking the court to order the 2nd respondent to pay to it the sum of N490,803.002 (Four Hundred And Ninety Million, Eight Hundred And Three Thousand, Two Naira) from the account of the 1st respondent domiciled with the 2nd respondent. The 1st respondent raised a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear and determine the application. One of the grounds for the objection was that it was not a proper party in the matter. After hearing the parties, the court dismissed the preliminary objection of the 1st respondent and made the order nisi absolute against the 1st and 2nd respondents. The 1st respondent was aggrieved and filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, asking the court to set aside the ruling of the Federal High Court.
The Court heard the appeal and gave judgment in favour of the 1st respondent and set aside the ruling of the Federal High Court. The court held that the 1st respondent was not the appellant’s judgment debtor and that its liability only becomes enforceable when it receives the money from the removed member of the house and fails to pay same to the appellant. The court further held that since there was no evidence that the 1st respondent received any such money from the removed member of the House and refused to pay same to the appellant, the judgment debtor is the removed member of the House and not the 1st respondent. The appellant was dissatisfied with the judgment and consequently filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Abuja.
One of the issues for determination is whether having regard to the peculiar circumstances of the case, the Delta State House of Assembly was the appellant’s judgment debtor in the proceedings.
Held: (Unanimously dismissing the appeal)