Uzodinma, Ihedioha: Supreme Court rules today on verdict review

The Supreme Court will today (Monday) hear and make a pronouncement on the application by former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha urging it to set aside its January 14, 2020 judgment that ousted him from office in favour of the incumbent governor of the state, Hope Uzodinma.

The motion which was filed by the legal team of the former governor headed by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), was in respect of appeals Nos: SC. 1462/2019; SC/1470/2019; CA/OW/GOV/05/2019 and petition No: EPT/GOV/IM/08/2019, between Senator Hope Uzodinma, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It is the contention of Ihedioha that the judgment of the Supreme Court be set aside is a nullity as it was obtained by fraud.

On this ground, Ihedioha submitted that “the appellants/respondents (Uzodinma), fraudulently misled the court into holding that a total of 213,495 votes were unlawfully excluded from the votes scored by the 1st appellant/respondent in the gubernatorial election of 9th March 2019 in Imo State.

He further submitted that “the 1st appellant/respondent admitted under cross-examination that he was the person (and not the 3rd respondent (INEC or any of its officials) who computed the result that gave him the 213,495 votes alleged to have been excluded from his total votes in the election.

“The fraudulent nature of the additional votes was demonstrated by the fact that the total votes cast as shown in the 1st appellant/ respondent’s computation was more than the total number of voters accredited for the election and in some polling units more than the total number of registered voters.

“The fraud was also demonstrated by the fact that the result computed by the 1st appellant/Respondent showed only the votes of the 1st Applicant and the 1st Appellant/respondent without specifying the votes scored by the other 68 candidates who participated in the election.

But responding, Governor Hope Uzodinma has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss an application filed by former Governor Emeka Ihedioha, seeking the setting aside of it’s January 14 judgment that removed him from office.

The governor position is contained in his preliminary objection challenging the competence of Ihedioha’s motion.

In the said motion dated February 5, 2020, Ihedioha prayed the apex court for an order setting aside “as a nullity the judgment delivered by it on the 14th of January, 2020 in Appeal No. SC.1462/ 2019 and Cross-Appeal No. SC.147Y0/ 2019.

However, governor Uzodinma in his preliminary objection dated February 6, 2020, urged the court to strike it out.

In addition, motion on notice brought pursuant to Section 6(6)(a) of the 1999 Uzodinma and his political platform, the All Progressives Congress (APC), predicated their objection on the grounds that “the application being a proceeding relating to or arising from election of a governor is barred by effluxion of time.

“The application constitutes an invitation to the Supreme Court to sit on appeal over its final decision” Uzodinma posited.

Besides, the objectors through their counsel, Damien Dodo (SAN) submitted that “having delivered its final decision on the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Appeal No. SC. 1462/2019 between Senator Hope Uzodinma & Anor v Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha & 2 Ors., the Supreme Court has become fuctus officio and divested of jurisdiction over the same subject matter”.

“Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules 2014 prohibits this honourable court from reviewing its judgment once given and delivered, save to correct clerical mistakes or accidental slip.

“The judgment sought to be set aside having been given effect by the inauguration of the 1st respondent/objector as governor of Imo State, this honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to grant the prayer sought” Uzodinma argued.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had after the March 9, 2019, gubernatorial election in Imo state, declared Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as the winner of the poll.

Aggrieved by the declaration of Ihedioha by the INEC as winner of the governorship election, Uzodinma and APC challenged the said declaration by way of a petition.

The litigation that ensued from the petition ultimately led to the appeal by Uzodinma and the APC against the decision of the Court of Appeal which by majority decision dismissed their appeal against the decision of the Election Tribunal to the apex court.

Ihedioha and PDP also cross-appealed.

However, in its judgment of 14th January 2020, the Supreme Court held that there was merit in the appeal filed by Uzodinma and allowed same.

Consequently, the judgment of the lower court affirming the judgment of the Governorship Election Tribunal which declared Ihedioha winner of the Imo governorship election was set aside.

Among the orders, the Supreme Court declared that votes due to the Appellants, Uzodinma and APC from 388 polling units were wrongly excluded from the score ascribed to them.

It ordered that the appellants’ votes from the 388 polling units unlawfully excluded from the appellants’ score shall be added to the results declared by the INEC.

The Supreme Court also declared that the 1st Respondent, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the said election and that his return as the elected governor of Imo state was null and void and accordingly set aside.

“It is hereby declared that the 1st Appellant, Sen Hope Uzodinma polled a majority of lawful votes cast at the Governorship Election held in Imo State on 9th March 2019 and satisfied the mandatory constitutional threshold and spread across the state.

“It is hereby declared that the 1st appellant, Sen. Hope Uzodinma is the winner of the Governorship Election of Imo State held on 9th March 2019.

“The Certificate of Return issued to the 1st respondent Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha is hereby withdrawn.
“It is hereby ordered that a certificate of return shall be issued to the 1st appellant, Sen. Hope Uzodinma forthwith and he should be sworn in as the Governor at lmo State immediately,” the Supreme Court held on January 14, 2020.

The apex court had adjourned the hearing of Emeka Ihedioha’s application seeking the review of the January 14, 2020 judgement which sacked him as Imo State governor and installed Hope Uzodinma as his replacement, to March 2.

The seven-man panel of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, adjourned the hearing after Ihedioha’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), told the court that processes were still being filed.

“My lords, processes are still coming in. Up till this morning, we were still receiving processes. We, therefore, apply for an adjournment to enable all the processes to come in,” Agabi said.

The lawyer representing Uzodinma and his party, the All Progressives Congress, Damian Dodo (SAN), and that of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Taminu Inuwa (SAN), did not oppose the application for adjournment.

The CJN-led panel subsequently adjourned till March 2 for hearing. – The Sun.

 

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