By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Supreme Court has stood down its proceedings till 3pm to enable it deliver judgement on the fresh application seeking to restore Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as Governor of Imo State.
A seven-man panel of justices of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, stood down after they heard all the parties on whether on not its January 14 judgement that sacked Ihedioha and enthroned Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressive Congress, APC, should be set-aside.
Whereas Ihedioha and the PDP, through their lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, urged the apex court to review and set-aside the judgement they argued was entered in error, Uzodinma and the APC, through their lawyer, Mr. Damian Dodo, SAN, prayed the court to reaffirm its decision by dismissing the fresh application they said constituted an abuse of court process.
On its part, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which is the 3rd Respondent, through its lawyer, Mr. Taminu Inuwa, SAN, said it would abide by the decision of the apex court.
Earlier, Agabi withdrew the initial review application his clients filed on February 5, and substituted it with another one dated February 17.
The previous application was accordingly struck out.
Arguing his case, Agabi, SAN, said his clients were only praying the apex court to correct a mistake that occasioned a great miscarriage of justice against them.
“We are not here to challenge the authority of this court. We respect the supremacy of this court and we recognise that your judgement is final.
“If we can go to God in prayer to change his mind, so also we have come before this court to change its mind”.
He contended that judgment of the Court of Appeal that struck out Uzodinma’s petition for being incompetent was not decided by the Supreme Court.
Agabi noted that whereas only results from 366 polling units were in issue, the apex court panel erroneously made reference to 388 polling units.
He queried the whereabouts of the balance of results from 22 polling units in the state, saying “no indication was given as to what the results were in respect of the 22 polling units.
“It was a fatal error”, Agabi submitted, adding that from the computation of the apex court, the total number of votes cast at the election exceeded the total number of accredited voters by over 100, 000 votes.
Besides, Agabi argued that Uzodinma had in his substantive petition before the Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, maintained that the gubernatorial contest that held in the state on March 9, 2019, was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
Ihedioha’s lawyer, therefore, contended that it was wrong for the apex court to declare Uzodinma winner of an election he adjudged to be flawed.
“He got a benefit for what he did not seek”, Agabi added, even as he urged the apex court to set aside its judgement that favoured Uzodinma and the All Progressive Congress, APC, and restore the Court of Appeal verdict that affirmed Ihedioha as the valid winner of the Imo state governorship election.
He insisted that the Supreme Court was adequately empowered by section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to reverse itself on the matter.
“My lords, when I was a child my father will beat me to cry and also beat me to stop. My Lords please we are crying, do not treat us like my father did. I urge you set aside that judgement.
“My lords are human and can make mistake, but the law has given you power to correct yourselves so that your mistakes are not immortalized”, Agabi pleaded.
Meanwhile, Uzodinma and the APC urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the application and re-affirm its earlier verdict that sacked Ihedioha from office.
“There is a total lack of jurisdiction on this court to revisit its judgement of January 14. Whether the application is characterised as an application for review or classified as an application to set-aside, or howsoever it is dressed.
“This court has consistently and rightly so, held that there is a lack of jurisdiction to sit on appeal over its judgement”, Dodo submitted.
He argued that there was no clerical error or accidental slip to be corrected in the judgement that removed Ihedioha from office.
“In this case, there is no doubt whatsoever about the decision of this Court. Therefore, the invitation this review or set-aside is not tenable. The dignity if this court must be respected.
“The application is incompetent and should be dismissed because there is no jurisdiction. It is a deliberate invitation for this court to sit on appeal over its judgement and the law does not allow that.
“The question of conflicting or inconsistent reliefs does not arise in this matter, it is already too late in the day for the Applicants. The judgement of this court had clearly set-aside the decision of the lower court in all its ramifications. The argument that there is an aspect of the lower court decision striking out the petition that was not considered by this court, is totally untenable.
“The order of this court setting aside the decision of the lower court was a tsunami. It was a clean sweep. We, therefore, urge my lords to sustain our preliminary objection and dismiss this application as an abuse of court process”, Dodo added.