Insists apex court can’t sit on appeal over its final judgements
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has filed a preliminary objection to challenge the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to review its January 14 judgement that brought him to power.
In a motion he jointly filed with the All Progressive Congress, APC, Uzodinma, maintained that the apex court has lost its powers to hear and determine any application relating to the governorship election that held in Imo state on March 9, 2019.
Consequently, he urged the court to dismiss the fresh application that was filed by ousted governor of the state, Emeka Ihedioha and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is seeking to set aside the judgement that declared him as the valid winner of the Imo governorship contest.
In the objection dated February 6, which Uzodinma filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr Damian Dodo, SAN, he contended that Ihedioha’s application, “being a proceeding relating to or arising from the election of a governor is barred by effluxion of time”.
According to him, “The application constitutes an invitation to the Supreme Court to sit on appeal over its final decision.”
ALSO READ: How APC blew Bayelsa away
Uzodimma and APC further argued that: “Having delivered its final decision on the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Appeal No. SC. 1462/2019 between Senator Hope Uzodinma & Anor v Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha & 2 Ors., the Supreme Court has become fuctus officio and divested of jurisdiction over the same subject matter.
“Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules 2014 prohibits this Honourable Court from reviewing its judgment once given and delivered, save to correct clerical mistakes or accidental slip.
“The judgment sought to be set aside having been given effect by the inauguration of the 1st Respondent/Objector as Governor of Imo State, this Honourable Court lacks the jurisdiction to grant the prayer sought.”
Besides, Uzodimma stated that Ihedioha’s application, “constitutes an abuse of court process” and “is against public policy.”
He insisted that the application seeking to restore Ohedioha amounts to an invitation for the Supreme Court to indulge in an academic exercise that is merely directed as gaining answers to hypothetical questions.
Uzodinma contended that the apex court ordered that a Certificate of Return should be issued to him forthwith and that he should be sworn in immediately, stressing that the order had since been made effective by his inauguration as the Governor of lmo State.
He, therefore, asked the court to invoke Section 6(6)(a) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended and dismiss Ihedioha’s quest to invalidate the judgment that brought him to power.
Meanwhile, the apex court has fixed February 18 to hear the motion Ihedioha filed to set-aside its judgement that removed him as Imo state governor.
A seven-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, had in a unanimous decision, declared that Senator Hope Uzodinma of the APC was the bonafide winner of the Imo governorship election.
The CJN-led panel, in its judgement, noted that valid votes that accrued to Uzodinma from 388 Polling Units were illegally excluded during the computation process.
It held that if the excluded votes were added, Uzodinma who was the appellant would have secured a majority of valid votes cast at the governorship election.
Consequently, it ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which was the 1stRespondent in the matter, to immediately issue a fresh certificate of return to Uzodinma who initially came fourth in the governorship election.
However, Ihedioha had in the five grounds he raised in his appeal, insisted that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to declare Uzodinma governor in the absence of any proof that votes ascribed to him met the mandatory geographical spread.
In his brief of argument, Ihedioha contended that: “This Honourable Court did not have the jurisdiction to declare the 1st Appellant/Respondent as elected in the absence of any proof that the votes ascribed to him met the mandatory geographical spread stipulated in section 179 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“This Honourable Court did not have the jurisdiction to declare that the 1st Appellant/Respondent met the constitutional geographical spread without providing in its judgment the reason(s) for that conclusion”.
He argued that the panel had no jurisdiction to hand victory to Uzodinma “in an election petition which was based on two inconsistent and mutually exclusive grounds”.
He drew attention of the apex court to the fact that one of the grounds of the petition Uzodinma lodged against the outcome of the Imo state governorship election, was that he (Ihedioha) was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election, “the implication of which is that the majority of votes cast at the election were valid”.
He said the second ground was that the election was invalid for non-compliance with the Electoral Act, “the implication of which is that the election be annulled”
Besides, Ihedioha argued that the CJN-led panel failed to consider a subsisting judgement of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal that dismissed Uzodinma’s petition.
“At the Tribunal the 2nd Applicant (as 2nd Respondent) applied to have the petition struck out on the ground that it was incompetent having regard to the fact that the 1st Petitioner who came fourth did not join the 2nd and 3rd runners up in the Petition.
“The application was heard and dismissed by the Tribunal whereupon the 2nd Applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal by way of Cross-Appeal to which the 1st and 2nd Respondents replied.
“The cross appeal was heard and allowed by the Court below. In the words of Adah JCA, who delivered the lead judgment in the cross-appeal:
“The preliminary objection of the 1st Cross Respondent (sic) at the lower court is allowed and I hold that the appropriate order of the trial tribunal would have been to have petition no EPT/GOV/IM/08/2019 struck out for being incompetent. I, therefore, order the petition struck out. No cost is awarded.”
“The 1st and 2nd Respondents appealed against the above order of the Court below in ground 18 of their Notice of Appeal but only to the extent of showing that the 1st Appellant was the 1st Cross Respondent at the Court of Appeal.
“The order of the Court of Appeal striking out the Petition for being incompetent raises a jurisdictional issue which this Honourable Court ought to have resolved first before delving into the merits of the Appeal.
“In its Judgment, this Honourable Court neither considered nor resolved this jurisdictional issue.
“The failure of the Supreme Court to consider and pronounce on this issue amounts to a failure of jurisdiction and completely erodes the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to consider the appeal on the merits.
“Your Lordships neither set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal striking out the Petition for being incompetent nor made any pronouncement on it. In the absence of any pronouncement by the Supreme Court on this issue, the judgment of the Court of Appeal striking out the Petition for being incompetent remains valid and subsisting.
“In the absence of any specific order of the Supreme Court setting aside the order of the Court of Appeal striking out the Petition, the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to countenance the Appellants’ appeal”, Ihedioha added.