In this write up our judiciary correspondent Andrew Orolua chronicled events at the Supreme Court hearings of an application filed by former Governor of Imo State, RT.HON. Emeka Ihedioha.
Ihedioha in the application sought a reverse of the apex court’s judgment of January 14, 2020 that relieved him of his post after about eight
Day 1: Tuesday, February 18, 2020.
We drove into the Supreme Court premises as early as 7.30 am after thorough security checks at the checking point along the main road leading to the villa and at the entrance gate to the Supreme Court .
We had less difficulty passing through the security checking points compared to our ordeal of January 14, at the hearing of the appeal where some journalists were barred from entering the crowded court room. Politicians , their supporters and hired thugs took over the court premises including the press gallery.
The rowded environment created by audience on January 14, 2020 was checked and did not repeat itself on February 18 , 2020 as only litigants ,lawyers and journalists were allowed into the Court room.
Lawyers were all sited after their normal exchange of pleasantries . They were waiting for the justices on the panel that usually come in at 9 am to sit. The justices did not arrived at 9am .
They eventually came in some minutes to 10am. On their arrival they bowed to the members of the bar whose were standing as the justices walked in, in order of seniority .
The members of the bar bowed in respond and stood until their Lordships: Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice Kayode Ariwoola, Justice Kudirat Kere-Ekun , Justice Inyang Okoro , Justice Amina Augie and Justice Nwali Abba-Aji were sited before they took their seats.
After some minutes of recording , the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad apologized to the bar for the slight delay. He said they were trying to sort out some problems.
Then, the CJN who also is the presiding justice of the panel directed the court registrar to call the case on the cause list and the registrar called SC./1462/2019
The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing on the application seeking a review of its Judgment on Imo State Governorship election to March 2, 2020.
Same members of the panel of the Supreme Court that declared Senator Hope Uzodinma the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the Gov’ship election held on March 9, 2019 had sat to hear application challenging the February 14 judgment yesterday.
But, Kanu Agabi (SAN)the lead counsel for Emeka Ihedioha’s team informed the court that processes on the matter are still coming in. He therefore applied for a short adjournment to enable the legal team put in more processes.
Damian Dodo (SAN) counsel to Governor Hope Uzodinma and the counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) T.A. Inuwa (SAN) did not opposed the application .Rather they said a short adjournment would enable them also put in more processes.
Besides the request for adjournment Dodo (SAN)wanted to know from the court which of the applications will be taken on the next adjourned date. But the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Ibrahim Muhammad said the parties should sort that out.
Dairy, Day 2 – Monday, March 2 , 2020.
As early as 8.35 am the lawyers in the matter were all sited after exchanges of pleasantries.
The justices walked into the Court room about 9.15 am and the CJN Justice Ibrahim Muhammad apologized for lateness. He then asked the court registrar to call SC/1462 Hope Uzordimma Vs Emeka Ihedioha.
Kanu Agabi (SAN) announced appearance and listed four other lawyers he was appearing with for the Respondent/Applicant.
Damian Dodo (SAN) announced appearance and listed four other lawyers he was appearing with for 1st and 2 nd Respondent/Appellants Hope Uzodinma and All Progressives Congress (APC).
T.M Inuwa (SAN) the third respondent – Independent National Electoral Commission counsel also announced appearance.
Agabi (SAN) told the Court the matter was adjourned for today for hearing but “unfortunately we were served with a process this morning adding that if it please the court may we be allowed to return tomorrow.
Dodo said that the applicants served him on Friday with his own process and the earliest possible time for him to respond was on today (Monday). He said “We are prepared to proceed.”
Inuwa also announced they are ready to go on with the matter, my Lords, he added.
Then, the presiding justice, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad consulted with the justices in a brief discussion with Justice Kayode Ariwoola and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta as both rallied their communications with CJN to justices on their side.
Justice Muhammad in a ruling adjourned the matter to Tuesday ,March 3, 2020.
Dairy, Day 3 , Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
We were at the Supreme Court premises as early as 7.30 am . The workers were arriving . The security posts were heavily manned and only the exist entrance to the Supreme Court premises was opened.
We were checked into the lobby and asked to wait until 8am when the court will open. At exactly 8am the security man allowed us in.
Within 30 minutes the Court room was filled with lawyers and audience among them the national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Adams Oshiomole and the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Uche Secondus .
The seven members panel of Justices which constituted a full court took their seats at about 9.15 am.
Then, Justice Muhammad asked the registrar to call the case SC/1462/ 2019 and the case mentioned for hearing.
Kanu Agabi (SAN) for Emeka Ihedioha and PDP. the 1st and 2 nd Respondent/ Applicant
Damian Dodo (SAN) for Hope Uzordinma and APC the 1st and 2nd Respondent/ Appellants .
M.T. Inuwa (SAN) for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),the 3rd Respondent.
In arguing his application, Agabi SAN announced that he is seeking to withdraw the application dated February 5, 2020 praying the court to review the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered on January 14, 2020.
He said he would move the motion filed and dated February 17, 2020 . The motion supported by seven paragraphs affidavit and ten exhibits , he said is seeking to set aside same judgment of the court delivered on January 14, 2020.
Accompanied with a written address and further and better affidavit of ten paragraphs with exhibits which he filed on February 28, 2020.
He also filed a reply on point of law dated February 28 , 2020. He craved the indulgence of the Lordships to adopt the processes and prayed the court to grant the relief sought.
” We are not here to challenge the Supremacy of the Supreme Court. Your judgement is final. You can pray to God to change His mind. We are praying you to set aside the judgment that is an error.
He said that the decision of the court of appeal which struck out by the Uzordinma appeal was not appealed against but abandoned .
He said that in the judgment reference was made to 388 polling unit that were excluded but they tendered result from 366 leaving the balance of 22 polling units uncounted for.
Besides, he added the number of votes exceeded the registered voters by over 100,000.
The appellants also branded the election invalid. If their relief is for the court to declared the election invalid they can not be given the governorship seat from an election that is invalid.
He said that appellant did not defend all these abnormally and he got a verdict which he did not seek.
Our case is different from Bayelsa case.
We pleaded the errors and urged the court to set aside the judgment of Jan 14. 2020.
On his part, Damian Dodo (SAN) said he relied on his preliminary objection filed on Feb 26 .He also listed the additional authorities he filed on February 28 and the process on point of law filed on March 2 and asked the court to dismiss the application for lack of jurisdiction.
On the main application , Dodo said he filed counter affidavit on Feb.26 and a written address in opposition to the application. He also filed list of additional authorities on February 29. He urge the court to dismiss the application for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
He said the crux of objection is that there total lack of jurisdiction to revisit the judgment of Jan 14.whetherit is a review or given any other name.
He said the Supreme Court has consistently held that there is lack of jurisdiction to sit over its own judgment, adding that “there is no doubt whatsoever that the intention of the court was explicitly stated in the judgment.
No one can invite this court to revisit the decision.
He said the fundamental thing is that this court lack jurisdiction to sit on the appeal over it’s own judgement.
“The application falls short of an application for review. ” He said it is on the record that they abandoned other reliefs and sought one relief in the face of clear evidence of the matter. “The issues of inconsistent in relief does not arise. “
He further stated that the judgment in question clearly set aside all the decisions of the court of appeal. Therefore, the argument of the applicants that this court did not set aside some aspect of the decision does not arise. He urged the court to dismiss the application on merit.
Inuwa SAN counsel for INEC said he did not file anything and will abide by the decision of the Court.
The Supreme Court in a six to one split ruling yesterday dismissed the application for lacking in merit Justice Kayode Ariwoola who read the lead ruling said the application amounted to an appeal over the Apex Court Judgment.
But in his dissent ruling justice Cletus Nweze agreed there was merit on the application. He set aside the judgment January 14, 2020 made in error .He ordered Uzodinma to immediately return the certificate of return issued to him by INEC .He also ordered Ihedioha to return to his post as Governor of Imo State.