The Oasis Reporters
March 6, 2020
The easiest part of the Imo State governorship case at the Supreme Court for the esteemed Justices, was the dismissal of Hon.7Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor and putting in his place, the third runner up, Hope Uzodinma.
But the humming on the street courts, bar rooms, commentaries and international community reactions showed one thing: An egg had been laid, and the smell from the crack was far from fresh.
Encouraged by the uproar that this caused and the fact that Uzodinma tendered results in 366 Polling Units, yet won in 388 thereby manufacturing more voters than the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had in its register, showed that the judgment held much more than was visible to the ordinary eye.
Being final because it is the Supreme Court and refusing to review its judgment which Kanu Agabi, former Attorney General and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, queried, events that followed showed enough unease in certain quarters.
Voices on the streets through the social media tended to show that the dissenting voice of Justice Centus Nweze was well listened to, for he said that the Supreme Court can review it’s ruling, having done that before.
Before the Imo ruling, there was the ruling on the case review request from the APC governorship candidate, David Lyon in which the apex court judge said the judgment is final in the ‘real sense’ and no court on earth can review the judgment.
“There must be an end to litigation even if we review this judgment, every disaffected litigant will bring similar applications and the finality of Supreme Court judgments will be lost”.
She added that the applications are frivolous and vexatious, and awarded the cost of N10 million against the applicants to be personally paid by their counsel.
Justice Augie added that the counsels of the APC and Mr Lyon are to each pay Governor Douye Diri, his deputy Mr Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo and the PDP the same N10 million.
The nation digested all that the learned justices said, against the backdrop of the big question, did the APC deputy governorship candidate actually present less than perfect credentials ?
As long as that question was not satisfactorily answered by the APC, they lost sympathy. No eyebrows were raised over the hefty fines.
Meanwhile, asa the Supreme Court finally delivered ruling in the application by a former Imo state governor, Emeka Ihedioha seeking to review and set aside the judgment of the court that brought Senator Hope Uzodinma to power as the state governor, it studiously ignored the imposition of fines ?
But first, the story while we try to confirm the actual newspaper that reported it.
We are told that the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of a seven-member panel, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad after hearing the application filed by Ihedioha adjourned to deliver ruling in the matter, earlier on the day of judgment.
On resumption, the panel ruled on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, throwing out the appeal by the immediate past governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, asking it to set aside its January 14, 2020 judgment sacking him.
The apex court said it had no power to entertain Ihedioha’s appeal. INEC had declared Ihedioha as winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election on the ground that he won majority of lawful votes cast at the governorship poll.
The Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in their concurrent decisions in the appeal filed by Senator Uzodinma, upheld Ihedioha’s election and dismissed Uzodinma’s petition on grounds that he did not prove his allegations against the election of Ihedioha. But the apex court held otherwise.
The apex court in its judgment disagreed with the decisions of the appeal court on the grounds that they erred in law when they excluded votes from 388 polling units from the total scores at the poll.
According to the apex court in the judgment delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, when the excluded votes totalling over 200,000 were added, Uzodinma and not Ihedioha actually won majority of the lawful votes cast in the March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
The apex court consequently declared Uzodinma Governor of Imo State and ordered the INEC to withdraw the earlier certificate of return issued to Ihedioha and issue a fresh one to Uzodinma. The court accordingly ordered that Senator Uzodinma, candidate of the All Progressive Congress which came fourth in the election be sworn in as governor of Imo State.
Unhappy over the decision, Ihedioha, approached the apex court armed with a request to reverse his sack early this year on the grounds of nullity.
In arguing his application, Ihedioha’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, told the court that they are praying the court to change its mind because of certain inherent errors in the judgment that removed his client from office.
He claimed that the apex court did not consider the judgment of the Court of Appeal which struck out Uzodinma’s appeal for being incompetent, adding that as at the time the apex court gave its judgment, the decision was still subsisting. Agabi, in pointing out another error he said was contained in the judgment, he wondered where the issue of 388 polling units came about when in actual fact, Uzodinma had tendered results of 366 polling units which he claimed was excluded from the total figure of votes cast at the election.
He said, “the judgment gave them credit in 22 polling units from nowhere”, adding that, ” contrary to all precedents, the number of votes cast at the election exceeded the number of accreditation by 129,000″.
He also argued that the judgment did not show that the APC had the necessary Constitutional spread to be declared as winner of the election.
” From all our pleadings and from evidence, 366 instead of 388 polling units have dispute.
“There is something wrong with them. It is a fatal error on the part of the Supreme Court. If he tendered results of 366 polling units and gets results in 388 polling units, how did he do it”, Kanu Agabi, SAN submitted.
He, therefore, urged the court to set aside its judgment sacking Ihedioha and restore the verdict of the Court of Appeal. He submitted that by section 6 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has all powers, including powers to correct its errors.
Responding, counsel to Uzodinma and the APC, Mr Damian Dodo SAN, urged the court to dismiss the application for being incompetent and lacking in merit. Dodo said they are opposing the application because the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it in the first place.
Dodo said, “Whether the application is characterized as an application for review or classified as an application to set aside or so ever dressed or clothed, this Court has consistently and rightly so held that it lacked powers to sit on appeal over its own judgment and this is what it is”.
He said what the applicants are asking the court to do amounts to an invitation to review its judgment and that is not tenable. He argued further that the judgment in dispute was clear enough and does not fall into any of those situations where the court can review its judgment, adding that reviewing this particular case would imply that the Supreme Court did not think through its judgment before it was delivered.
“The fundamental thing here is jurisdiction, the law says there is no jurisdiction for this court to sit on appeal over its own judgment”, he said, adding that for the court to set aside the judgment it must first hear the appeal, which is something the court does not allow.
According to him, the appellants 0relied only on the one praying the court to return them as winner of the poll following compelling evidence at their disposal that they won the election.
On the judgment of the Court of Appeal which dismissed their case, Dodo submitted that the judgment of the Supreme Court which set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal has completely taken care of all issues raised at the lower court.
He subsequently asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the application for lacking merit.
Hear some social media voices and take a sweeping look at the Bayelsa and Imo State calls for review:
“Why didn’t the Supreme Court fine the lawyers and the complainants in the Imo case just like was done in Bayelsa?
Some things that you just need to question….what message is this sending?
There needs to be consistency in the delivery of the law… if the Supreme Court penalized the complainants and their lawyers in one case because they reasonably ought to have known that the Supreme Court does not have the powers to review its own decisions, then why wasn’t the same standard applied in the other case”?