By Onyebuchi Anaikor
THE Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Kutigi, was livid! His lordship could not help but exclaim: â€œWhat manner of country is this that senior advocates of Nigeria could lend themselves as willing tools in the hands of desperate politicians to bring the judiciary to disrepute.â€
On that fateful day, in June, 2009, the apex court, with the CJN presiding, was confronted with a most unusual situation: a yet another attempt by Andy Uba to secure a reversal of that hallowed chambersâ€™ well considered decision; and, a clearly unwarranted but unceasing onslaught on that veritable institution.
With his eyes unwaveringly fixated on the office of the governor of Anambra State, Andy Uba remained unrelenting and would not let go! Egged on, as it were, by his army of co-travellers; and, even more by his own personal hubris, nothing was out of bounds and no artifice beyond pale in this single-minded quest.
Thus, he proceeded to approach the Supreme Court – the third (or fourth?) time in a series – with the request, nay demand that the court reverses itself on its earlier decision on the nullity of the purported gubernatorial elections in 2007 in Anambra State.
Utterly pained and in a voice laden with anguish at this attempt to desecrate the hallowed institution of the judiciary, Kutigi was constrained to condemn such an inglorious venture. In clear words; and in restatement of the settled legal position that there must be an end to litigation, the apex court held that it could not re-visit, much less reverse itself on a matter it had already decided on its merits.
Thus, after conferring with his brother justices on the panel and with their concurrence, the CJN unhesitatingly dismissed Ubaâ€™s request as a gross abuse of process. But, alas, before the ink could dry on the Supreme Courtâ€™s order, Uba is already at it again! This time the forum is the Court of Appeal, Enugu.
As reported on the front page of Thisday of June 30, 2009: â€œThe Supreme Court had penultimate week declared as null and void Ubaâ€™s election as governor at the April 2007 poll. The apex court also berated Ubaâ€™s lawyers for bringing an already decided case to the court. But undaunted, Uba through his lawyers, led by Ajibola Aribisala (SAN), is seeking a motion barring the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting a fresh election into the office of governor pending the determination of the new suit.
â€œThus in clear defiance of the decision of the Supreme Court; and, in utter contempt thereof. Uba and his lawyers appear to have approached the Court of Appeal to question the self-same decision. Beyond the unmistakable and deliberate violations of section 235 of the 1999 constitution (on the finality of decisions of the Supreme Court) and Section 287(1) of the same Constitution (on the enforce ability of the decisions of the Supreme Court in any part of the federation by all authorities and persons) inherent in this latest venture, is the question of the glaring effrontery and dare on the part of Andy Uba and his lawyers.
The contention appears to have been made on the part of Uba and his group that this latest sojourn to the Court of Appeal, Enugu is in order to seek â€œa declaratory order on an earlier judgment by the Court of Appeal.â€ Said Ubaâ€™s lawyersÂ as reported in the same newspaper: â€œWe are seeking a declaratory order on an earlier judgment by the Court of Appeal, Enugu, the Apex Court on gubernatorial election disputes that Andy Uba remains the duly elected governor of Anambra State in the April 14, 2007 election.â€
Now, it appears that Uba and his team have only just discovered that the Court of Appeal is the apex court on gubernatorial election disputes. Good! And, thatâ€™s the law. But this latter day awakening is not only wholly mischievous but is clearly unavailable to the knowledge and information of Uba and his team or ought to be!
In the first place, there is neither a gubernatorial election in Anambra State on April 14, 2007 nor could there be any dispute over a non-existent election. So held the Supreme Court in the case brought by Peter Obi, the incumbent governor of Anambra State. And that decision is final on the issue.
Make no mistake about it: Ubaâ€™s latest move to the Court of Appeal, Enugu is clearly premeditated and with malice aforethought. This brazen attempt is only calculated to create chaos and possibly destroy the sanctity of the hierarch of the courts and our administration of justice system. It needs, firmly and unreservedly, to be condemned and resisted.
Even more ominous is the disposition of Ubaâ€™s legal team in the face of the pronouncement of the Supreme Court on this matter. Here no inadvertence can reasonably be inferred on the part of Ubaâ€™s lawyers. Both on the grounds of professional ethics and in their duties as officers of the court, Ubaâ€™s legal team could only at best be said to be derelictÂ in their conduct.
Perhaps, this is a matter in which the Supreme Court and the CJNÂ may wish to exercise their powers under section 13 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap. LI 1, LFN, 2004; and, to cause the appropriate sanctions to be applied. Even more so, the Nigerian Bar Association needs to act; and to act now!