Supreme Court affirms Bayelsa guber verdict as APC, Lyon lose review appeal

David Lyon and the All Progressives Congress have lost their bids to overturn the Supreme Court ruling of 13 February, which sacked Lyon as the duly elected governor of Bayelsa state.

In the unanimous ruling of its seven-man panel led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, the apex court said its judgment on the poll was  “final in the real sense of the word, final, and no force can get this court to shift from its decision.”

It described the applications filed by the APC and its governorship candidate at the poll, David Lyon, as “vexatious, frivolous, and constitute a gross abuse of court process”.

Adjudging the applications as lacking in merit, Justice Amina Augie who read the lead judgment, said the apex court lacked jurisdiction to review its judgment except in few circumstances when there was the need to correct clerical slip or vary it to give effect to the spirit and intention of the judgment.

She also held that granting the applications would open a floodgate of such applications, diminish the finality of the decisions of the apex court and make the law uncertain.

Incensed by the applications, Justice Augie expressed regrets that “very senior members of the bar” were responsible for the filing of the applications which she noted was “aimed at desecrating the sanctity of the court”.

She awarded the costs of N30m against each of the applicants’ lawyers, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) representing Lyon, and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), standing for the APC.

The costs totalling N60m are to be paid to three respondents who opposed the applications.

The respondents are: the Peoples Democratic Party, whose legal team was led by Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN); Bayelsa State Governor Duoye Diri, represented by Yunus Usman (SAN), and the deputy governor, Lawrence Ewhruojakpo, represented by Chris Uche (SAN).

Although the Independent National Electoral Commission was the fourth respondent to the application, no cost was awarded in its favour, because its lawyers led by Mr. Taminu Inuwa (SAN), took a neutral stand by not filing any document in favour of or opposition to the applications.

The Supreme Court earlier conducted a hearing into the two applications on Wednesday, with Babalola urging the apex court to “set aside” the February 13, 2020 judgment for allegedly constituting a nullity, and Olanipekun praying the court to delete a portion of the said judgment for being a product of “human error”.

Oyetibo, Usman and Uche told the court that granting the applications would amount to an invitation to the apex court to a dangerous part of violating the Constitution in disrespect to the finality of the decisions of the final court.

Delivering the apex court’s lead judgment after the panel of seven returned from a short post-hearing break, Justice Augie ruled that applications amounted to an invitation to the apex court to sit in appeal on its earlier judgment, a situation which she held would violate section 235 of the Constitution which ascribes finality to the apex court’s decision.

She added that granting the applications would open a floodgate of endless litigation over the decisions of the apex court.

Citing a previous decision of the apex court she said the court’s decision “is final in the sense of real finality. It is final forever, only a legation can alter it.”

According to her, by virtue of Order 8, Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules, the apex court lacked jurisdiction to review its judgment except in some few situations where there is the need to correct clerical slips or vary it to reflect the real intention of the judgment.

She ruled, “They have not pointed out any clerical slip or omission in the said judgment or shown this court any part of the said judgment that needs to be varied so as to give effect to its spirit or intention.

“They are asking the court to vary the operative and substantive part of the judgment and thereby substitute it with different form entirely. However, there must be an end to litigation.

“Section 235 of the 1999 Constitution as amended makes it very clear that no appeal can lie to any other body from any determination of the Supreme Court. This is the final court and the decisions of the court are final.”

Affirming the earlier February 13, 2020 judgment of the apex court, she ruled, “The decision of this court in appeal number SC.1/2020 is final for all ages. It is final in the real sense of the word, final, and no force can get this court to shift from its decision on the Bayelsa State election appeal number SC.1/2020.

“It will otherwise open the floodgate of litigation on all appeals decided by this court.

“There is even no guarantee that if the applications are granted, the other side will not come up with a fresh application to review the ruling on the grounds that this court did not consider certain parts of the arguments. As I said, there must be an end to litigation to ensure certainty in the law.”

She criticised Babalola and Olanipekun, for filing the application, saying, “The two applicants are by these applications asking this court to sit in appeal over the judgment delivered on February 13, 2020, which is regrettable.

“I cannot believe that, with tears in my eyes that in my lifetime, I will see very senior members of the bar make applications of this nature which are aimed at desecrating the sanctity of this court”.

Justice Augie ordered Babalola and Olanipekun to each pay N10m to three respondents to the appeal, implying that each of the lawyers must have to part with N30m.

“Cost of N10m each is awarded against the first and second applicants and in favour of the first, second and third respondents to be paid personally by their respective counsel,” Justice Augie ordered.

The disputed apex court’s judgment was delivered on February 13, 2020, barely 24 hours to the inauguration of the APC’s governor-elect, Lyon, and his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, who were the winners of the last governorship election in Bayelsa State.

The five-man panel of the court led by Justice Mary Peter-Odili disqualified Degi-Eremienyo’s candidacy and ruled that the disqualification had rendered the joint ticket held by him and the governorship candidate a nullity.

Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Ejembi Eko disqualified Degi-Eremienyo’s candidacy for presenting false information about his educational qualifications in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC as a candidate for the 2019 election.

The former deputy governor-elect was said to have presented certificates with different names and inconsistent with the name on the Form CF.001 submitted to INEC.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in his judgment delivered in November 2019 disqualified Degi-Eremienyo, but the judgment was upturned by the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

The apex court’s February 13 judgment upturned the Court of Appeal’s judgment and affirmed the Federal High Court’s verdict.

Members of the Supreme Court panel who unanimously dismissed the APC’s applications for the review of the February 13 judgment on Wednesday were Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Mary Peter-Odili, Olukayode Ariwoola, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Inyang Okoro, Amina Augie and Ejembi Eko.

Among top figures present at the Wednesday’s hearing were Governor Diri, APC’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole,  the disqualified APC’s former governor-elect, Degi-Eremienyo, and PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.

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