…Uzodinma misled apex court, says dissenting Justice Nweze
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the application by Emeka Ihedioha for the review of its 14 January judgment that ousted him as governor of Imo State.
The judgment was handed down in Abuja by the review panel headed by Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad, with one Justice Chima Centus Nwese dissenting.
Earlier, Ihedioha and the PDP, had through their lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, urged the apex court to review and set aside the judgement they argued was entered in error.
Justice Cletus Nweze in his dissenting ruling today, set aside the judgment of the Supreme Court as a nullity.
He added that the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, misled the court in arriving at the judgment which removed Emeka Ihedioha from office after about 10 months.
According to Justice Nweze, there is no evidence placed before the court that Governor Uzodinma satisfied the required spread to have been declared the winner of the election.
He, therefore, told other judges on the panel that the judgment upholding Uzodinma’s victory in the March 9, 2019 poll would continue to haunt the nation’s electoral jurisprudence.
Justice Nweze in his minority ruling held that the court was misled in declaring Hope Uzodinma as governor and subsequently ordered his removal from office.
According to him, Uzodinma failed to give evidence of how he won the election.
He held that the votes which were used to declare Uzodinma winner were in excess of the accredited votes for the election.
He held that Uzodinma mischievously misled the court into unjust conclusion with the unverified votes credited to himself in the disputed 388 polling units.
“In my intimate reading of the January 14 judgment, the meat and substance of Ihedioha’s matter were lost to time frame. This court once set aside its own earlier judgment and therefore cannot use time frame to extinguish the right of any person.
“This court has powers to overrule itself and can revisit any decision not in accordance with justice,” he said.
According to Justice Nweze, the decision of the Supreme Court in the instant matter will continue to hunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come, adding that without evidence of meeting other constitutional provisions, the court misled itself into declaring Uzodinma as governor.
“This court has a duty of redeeming its image, it is against this background that the finality of the court cannot extinguish the right of any person.”
While agreeing with Agabi that from the computation of the court in its January 14 judgment, the number of votes exceeded the total number of accredited voters by over 100, 000 votes, Justice Nweze said “wonders shall never end.’
“I am of the view that this application should succeed. I hereby make an order setting aside the decision of this court made on January 14 and that the certificate of return issued to the appellant be returned to INEC.
“I also make an order restoring the respondents as winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election.”
After Justice Nweze’s ruling, people in the court, including counsel, burst into spontaneous clapping.
However, the CJN threatened to sentence anyone caught clapping to “continuous clapping”.
But his colleagues in a split decision of six-to-one refused to set aside their January 14, 2020 judgment that removed Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as Governor of Imo State.
Justice Olukayode Ariwoola read the majority judgment and dismissed the application for lacking merit.
“In the majority ruling, the court held that granting the request of the applicants would open the flood gate by parties to all kinds of litigations”.
The court insisted that by the provision of section 235 of the 1999 Constitution its decision on any judgment based on merit is final and shall not be reviewed once delivered under any guise, except for clerical errors.
“Certainly this court has no inherent power to grant what is being sought, it is beyond the powers of this Court. There is no Constitutional provisions for this court to review its own judgment”, Ariwoola said.
“To say the least, this court has no competence and lacked power to sit on appeal in its own decision. Finality of the Supreme Court is entrenched in the constitution and inherent power can only be invoked where there is law to do so.
“This court cannot under any guise alter any judgment under any inherent power, as doing so would bring the court into disrepute and ridicule.
“The application is liable for dismissal and is hereby dismissed for want of jurisdiction and competence.
No costs was awarded, unlike the Bayelsa case where lawyers to the APC and David Lyon were slammed with N60m cost to be paid to the defendants.
Ihedioha and the PDP had asked the justices to review their judgment on the Imo governorship election which ousted Ihedioha and installed Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress.
The appellants claimed that the judgment was obtained by fraud and urged the seven-man panel headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammed to review the verdict in their favour.
Lawyer to Mr. Ihedioha, Chief Kanu Agabi, in his argument, claimed that fraud was evident in the judgment, as the appellant, Hope Uzodinma, claimed he was excluded from 388 polling units but tendered results from only 366 polling units
He argued that the addition of votes from 388 polling units in favour of Senator Uzodinma exceeded the total number of accredited voters by 129,000 votes.
Countering the argument, Damian Dodo, lawyer to Governor Hope Uzodinma said the application to revisit, review or set aside the judgment of the court is an incompetent one lacking in merit.
He argued that the apex court lacks the jurisdiction to sit on appeal over any judgment delivered by the court except where cases of typographical errors or slips are noticed in the said judgment. In this case, no such errors have been established, he said.
Mr Damian Dodo added that the appellant approached the apex court in the face of compelling evidence that Senator Hope Uzodinma won the election, and therefore asked the court to dismiss the application.