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Amaechi floors Omehia again

By Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJA — A FULL panel of the Supreme Court,  yesterday,  dismissed with N100,000 cost, the application by former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia, seeking to nullify its (Supreme Court’s) January 18, 2008 judgment which installed Mr. Rotimi Amaechi as governor.

The apex court which threw out Omehia’s request cited want of merit as reason.

Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu who presided and read the lead judgment of the court said its decision declaring Amaechi governor was final regardless of whether it was rightly or wrongly entered and that there was nothing anybody could do about it.

He said that if anybody was aggrieved by the court’s decision, the proper place to appeal was in heaven where God Almighty reigns supreme and not in Nigeria where they held sway.

The verdict, yesterday, doused mounting tension in Port-Harcourt and its environs where rumour had circulated that the apex court would sack the incumbent governor from office on account that he was declared by the court as governor when it had no such jurisdiction to grant such relief.

The premises of the Supreme Court were thickly populated by supporters and people of Rivers State who had thronged the court to celebrate the anticipated victory of Omehia.

They however left the court dejected after the judgment.

The supporters of Governor Amaechi including key members of his cabinet were happy but they were mature in their celebration.

Most of them used their mobile phones to communicate the judgment of the court to their friends and those eagerly awaiting the outcome of the proceedings.

The judgment which dismissed Omehia’s application was unanimous in their findings yesterday.
Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu led the panel of seven justices while Justice George Oguntade who delivered the January 18, 2008 lead judgment being attacked by Omehia was the most vocal of the justices.

Specifically, the justices said the application by Omehia urging them to review the judgment of the court was a useless one, for several reasons.

Firstly, they said that Omehia was standing logic on its head when he claimed in one breadth in his application that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to sit on the appeal brought by Amaechi through which he was declared governor and in another breadth claimed that it had no jurisdiction to enter the judgment it delivered on January 18, 2008.

They argued that Omehia should know that if the court had jurisdiction to entertain Amaechi’s case, it would also have jurisdiction to enter judgment in the case.

The justices said that it was a different ball game if the decision of the court was wrong.

They said even if the court’s decision was wrong, they said they have the right to be wrong because they are humans.
They said that assuming without conceding that they were wrong, they said the application by Omehia asking them to set aside the judgment was strange.

They claimed that moving in favour of Omehia would amount to sitting in an appellate capacity over their judgment which they said they have no jurisdiction to do.

They maintained yesterday that the judgment which declared Amaechi as governor was the best at the time, given the circumstances of the case.

Justice Oguntade went memory lane on why Amaechi was made the governor of the state.

He said what the ruling PDP did in Ararume’s case informed the decision of the apex court in Amaechi’s case.
He said if the Supreme Court had only declared Amaechi as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP, he said the ruling party would have frustrated him from contesting the election as they did in Ararume’s case.

All other justices on the panel also took turns yesterday to defend their last judgment on the case.

They each tackled one Mr. James Ezike, the lead counsel to Omehia in the case yesterday with a barrage of questions.
Ezike who though was timid at the beginning of the proceedings, later found his voice and asked the Supreme Court justices to eschew their pride and admit that their verdict in the case was not only warped but that it was also a grave injustice on Omehia.

He demanded that the apex court issue an order voiding its judgment and reinstating his client into his alleged rightful position.

He attempted to cite legal authorities yesterday to back up his demands but the justices would not let him do so.
Efforts by Ezike to occasionally raise his voice above the justices’ who cared to interject while making his submissions was dismissed as a bad practice etiquette and contempt of the court.

Although Omehia’s counsel attempted to apply the brakes each time he was cautioned, but his desire to persuade the justices to his side of the argument made two of them to threaten him with arrest if he did not control his tongue.
Ezike however dared the justices.

One K Onyekwere who was also in court yesterday with a similar application never raised his voice except when he announced his appearance and disclosed his mission to the court.

He knew it would be foolish of him to attempt to move his application when the court was already threatening his colleague with arrest and warning counsel to desist bringing unmeritorious applications before the court for determination.

He however told reporters after the proceedings that it was Ezike that destroyed the case having admitted that the apex court had jurisdiction to sit on Amaechi’s case.

He said if he were the first to move his application, he said he would not have agreed that the apex court had the jurisdiction to entertain the case.

It would be recalled that controversies had trailed the issue of who the authentic PDP candidate in the election in the state was despite claims by Omehia and PDP that he (Omehia) was the PDP candidate and governor in the state by virtue of his winning the April 14 governorship election.

Amaechi had deposed otherwise, claiming that if PDP had a governor in the state he should be the one, having overwhelmingly won the party primaries of December 2006.

Amaechi was declared the winner out of the eight aspirants who participated in the PDP primaries conducted in the state in December 2006.

But soon after, former President Olusegun Obasanjo insisted that his candidacy was unacceptable to the party.
Obasanjo, it was believed, based his judgment on reports he had on Amaechi from the then Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which, according to him, were too damning.

Because of the exigency of time, a second party congress and primaries could not be held and the PDP national headquarters in Abuja subsequently gave the Rivers State chapter a week to come up with a consensus candidate and after weeks of internal networking within the party, Omehia emerged as a consensus candidate and the campaign for votes began.

However, on April 14, 2007 when gubernatorial elections held all over the country, Omehia was declared winner in Rivers State by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Omehia’s victory was only the beginning of a protracted legal battle that eventually ended at the Supreme Court in October 2007, the court ordered that Omehia should vacate the governorship seat for Amaechi.

In the lead judgment delivered by Justice George Oguntade, the apex court made it explicitly clear that without a political party in Nigeria, a candidate cannot contest election.

The court held that a good or bad candidate may enhance or diminish the prospect of his party in winning an election but that at the end of the day, it is the party that wins or loses an election.


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