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S/Court rejects Omehia’s prayer to sack Gov Amaechi, douses tension in Rivers state

…Says only God can reverse its judgment installing the governor

…Says its decision remains the law in Nigeria even if it is wrong

…Dismisses ex-Gov Omehia’s request as strange, worrisome and contemptuous of court’s finality

…Threatens to order arrest of Omehia’s counsel

…As Omehia says S/Court is unfair to him

By Ise-Oluwa Ige
A full panel of the Supreme Court,  yesterday,  dismissed, with N100,000 cost, a contentious application by former Governor of Rivers state, Sir Celestine Omehia seeking to nullify its (the court’s) January 18, 2008 judgment which installed Governor Rotimi Amechi as state governor.

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

Justice Aloysius katsina Alu who presided and read the lead judgment of the court in the case yesterday said its decision declaring Amaechi as governor on October 25, 2007 was final regardless of whether it was rightly or wrongly entered and that there was nothing anybody could do about it.

He categorically said yesterday that if anybody was aggrieved by the court’s decision, he said the proper venue to appeal the judgment was Heavens where God Almighty reigns supreme as the judge and not the earth Nigeria where they held sway.

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

In fact, the entire premises of the Supreme Court which was thickly populated by supporters and indigenes of Rivers state was peaceful.

Those who had thronged the court room to celebrate the anticipated judicial victory of the former Governor Omehia could not say a word.

They peacefully walked out of the apex court dejectedly.

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 apex court to their friends and those eagerly awaiting the outcome of yesterday’s proceedings.

Conspicuously present were the state Chief of Staff, Wike, the state Attorney-General, Chikere among other cabinet members of the governor.

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 yesterday during proceedings.

Specifically, the justices said the application by Omehia urging them to review the judgment of the court in the Amaechi’s case was a useless one for more reasons than one.

Firstly, they said that Omehia was standing logic on its head when it 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 Amechi’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 ‘questionable’ judgment which declared Hon Amaechi as governor was the best at the time that did justice to the case given the circumstances of the case.

Justice Oguntade personally went memory lane yesterday 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 turn yesterday to defend the last year judgment of the apex court as okay and that it remains the law.

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 pride and admit that their verdict in the Amaechi’s case was not only warped but that it also occasioned 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 authourities yesterday to back up his demands but the justices would not let him do.

Efforts by Ezike to 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 apex court.

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

Ezike however dared the justices as he said he would take his medicine like a man but that he refused to be dissuaded that its order declaring Hon Amaechi as governor was not a nullity having allegedly been given without jurisdiction.

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 apex 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 clourt for determination.

He however spoke with newsmen yesterday that it was Ezike that spoilt 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.

But it is not in doubt that the case that went to the Supreme Court on appeal was a pre-election matter which the apex court has the jurisdiction to entertain.

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.

Justice Oguntade noted: “Without a political party, a candidate cannot contest.

“The primary method of contest for elective offices is therefore between parties. If as provided in Section 221, it is only a party that canvasses for votes, it follows that it is a party that wins an election. A good or bad candidate may enhance or diminish the prospect of his party in winning but at the end of the day it is the party that wins or loses an election.”

The Section 221 of the Constitution referred to by Justice Oguntade states: “No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.”


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