By Ise-Oluwa Ige
A five-member panel of the Supreme Court yesterday scheduled January 14 to commence a review of its verdict handed down on 17 December, 2009, clearing Professor Charles Soludo for the Anambra gubernatorial poll slated for February 6, this year.
The panel headed by Justice George Adesola Oguntade which sat for the purpose yesterday, however, declared that none of the justices that sat last year on the matter and gave the order sought to be set aside, had any interest of any sort in the gubernatorial ambition of Professor Soludo.
He explained that the apex court simply gave the corrective order last year in view of the undisputed fact that the lower court stopped INEC from recognizing Soludo as PDP candidate for the February 6 gubernatorial poll when the all-important issue of its jurisdiction to hear the case was yet to be determined.
He said by the facts of the case as stated before the Supreme Court, the verdict of the Abuja high court to the effect that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case was still subsisting.
He said until a contrary pronouncement was made setting aside the verdict of the trial high court, the Court of Appeal itself would have no jurisdiction to make any order as it did in the Soludo case.
He said the judgment of December 17, 2009 by the Supreme Court was meant to correct the error fallen into by the Abuja Court of Appeal which gave an order stopping Soludo while the issue of jurisdiction was still pending.
Justice Oguntade who said that since the apex court had to adjourn hearing yesterday at the instance of the parties (Mr Valentine Ozigbo and Mrs Victoria Nwankwo) seeking to set aside the December 17, 2009 order returning Soludo to the ballot, said the order remained valid until set aside.
In a short ruling yesterday, Justice Oguntade said: â€œIn the interest of justice, this court will grant an adjournment to enable Mr Abubakar (counsel to the applicants) file an affidavit deposing to the facts which he would have presented before this court had we not heard this matter in the manner we did on 17 December 2009.
â€œThere ought not to be any doubt about the fact that the order made on 17 December 2009 stands until it is set aside.
â€œThis matter is adjourned till 14 January 2010 at 12 noon for further hearing to enable the panel for that motion sit,â€ he said, adding â€œwe want to be fair to everybody. We are not interested in this case.â€
Meantime, Prof Charles Soludo yesterday used the opportunity of the proceedings to protest the refusal by INEC to obey the subsisting order of the apex court to the effect that he should be recognized as theÂ candidate of the PDP.
He complained through his lead counsel yesterday, Chief P. I. N Ikwueto (SAN).
According to Ikwueto (SAN), since the Supreme Court gave the order last year directing INEC to accord his client, Prof Soludo, all benefits and advantages available to all party candidates, INEC has been foot-dragging.
Supreme Court’s December 17 order
It would be recalled that the same panel of the Supreme Court that sat yesterday had on 17 December 2009, ordered INEC to include, with immediate effect, the name of Prof Charles Soludo, on the comprehensive list of nominated candidates jostling for election in the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial poll in Anambra state.
The order came less than 24 hours after the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja stopped the ex-Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from canvassing for votes with respect to the gubernatorial election or parade himself anyhow, anywhere, as nominated candidate of the ruling PDP for the poll.
The apex court which voided, the interlocutory order granted by the Abuja Court of Appeal against Soludo on December 16, 2009 declared that the injunction was not only oppressive but that it was unfair and granted without jurisdiction.