June 23, 2009

Kutigi’s word for SANs

CHIEF Justice of  Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, usually a very sober man, had harsh words for lawyers when he ruled in what should hopefully be the last of the series of court cases, Chief Andy Uba unleashed over the governorship of Anambra State since 2007.

“In this case, judgement was delivered and you allowed them file a case. It was struck out; they came back and filed the same case. Where are we going in this country?

We can only set aside our judgement in case there is corruption or collision. They had earlier brought an application asking us to set aside our judgement. They knew that they were wrong and they withdrew the matter. The former lawyer knew that he was wrong and he withdrew,” Justice Kutigi said.

Uba’s 17-day-old tenure of Anambra State ended when the Supreme Court reinstated Peter Obi on 14 June 2007. Obi had lost two earlier judgements at the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal, both in Enugu. Obi approached the Federal High Court to put legal approval on his tenure which did not start until 17 March 2006, following a protracted legal battle at the electoral tribunal.

Both courts on the tenure case held that Obi’s tenure would end on 29 May 2007. Obi went to the Supreme Court. On 14 June 2007, the Supreme Court reinstated Peter Obi as governor.

Justice Katsina-Alu drew from Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution to conclude that Obi’s tenure would expire on 17 March 2010, four years from the day he was sworn in as governor.

“There is no doubt that Governor Obi took his oath of office on 17 March 2006 and that his tenure of office shall expire on 17 March 2010. INEC admitted that it was aware of the pendency of the suit and still went ahead to conduct an election into an office that is not vacant.

The office of Governor of Anambra State was not vacant as at the time of the elections; Andy Uba should immediately vacate the office for Peter Obi to complete his term of office,” Justice Katsina-Alu stated.

Uba has been to the two courts in Enugu to reclaim the governorship, he failed. He finally asked the Supreme Court to upturn its own judgement on the matter. Justice Kutigi had tough words for lawyers.

“What kind of country is this where Senior Advocates of Nigeria are used to mess up the judiciary? They went and bought you (J. B. Dawodu, SAN, Uba’s lawyer) to handle this kind of practice.

This is wrong. The appellant has been shuttling from one court to another on a matter that the Supreme Court had already delivered judgement. If the Supreme Court makes a mistake, there are procedures of correcting the mistakes, not this way, and we will not allow it,” the Chief Justice of Nigeria said.

Let us hope this is the last of this case that has exhausted itself on all fronts.