3rd March, 2020
Justice Chima Centus Nweze earned spontaneous applause of lawyers and the spectators at the Supreme Court on Tuesday after he delivered his minority verdict on the Imo review appeal, ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission to re-issue a certificate of return to ousted Governor Emeka Ihedioha.
His was a lone voice out of seven justices and came with dire warning about the implication of the majority judgement on future electoral cases.
“This decision of the Supreme Court will continue to haunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come”, he said. He spoke last and his warning was of no effect, except for the applause it triggered.
The majority of six upheld what they said was the infallibility attribute of the Supreme Court, to hold fast to its verdict, whether right or wrong.
Just as they unanimously did in the case of Bayelsa, they dismissed the application filed by Ihedioha, seeking a review of the Jan. 14 judgment removing him from office.
“Certainly this court has no inherent power to grant what is being sought, it is beyond the powers of this Court. There is no Constitutional provisions for this court to review its own judgment”, said Justice Kayode Ariwoola, who read the majority verdict.
“To say the least, this court has no competence and lacked power to sit on appeal in its own decision. Finality of the Supreme Court is entrenched in the constitution and inherent power can only be invoked where there is law to do so.
“This court cannot under any guise alter any judgment under any inherent power, as doing so would bring the court into disrepute and ridicule.
“The application is liable for dismissal and is hereby dismissed for want of jurisdiction and competence”, added.
Nweze felt his colleagues got it wrong. He said the Supreme Court can reverse itself and can do so in fulfilment of justice.
“In my intimate reading of the January 14 judgment, the substance of Ihedioha’s matter was lost to time frame.
“This Court once set aside its own earlier judgment and therefore cannot use time frame to extinguish the right of any person.
“This Court has powers to over rule itself and can revisit any decision not in accordance with justice”, he said.
Nweze gave a dire warning: “This decision of the Supreme Court will continue to haunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come”.
He said without evidence of meeting other constitutional provisions, the court misled itself into declaring Uzodinma as governor.
“This Court has a duty of redeeming its image.
“I am of the view that this application should succeed. I hereby make an order setting aside the decision of this Court made on Jan. 14 and that the certificate of return issued to the appellant be returned to INEC.
“I also make an order restoring the respondents as winner of the March 9 governorship election.
Ihedioha made the request for a review of the January 14 judgment in an application he and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) filed at the Supreme Court through their lawyer Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN.
He prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment it delivered.
The apex court had nullified Ihedioha’s election as Imo governor and declared Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressive Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state.
Arguing the application, Agabi withdrew the motion dated February 5 and argued the motion dated Feb 17 that was supported by seven paragraphs affidavit and ten exhibits .
He said that in the judgment, reference was made to 388 polling units that were excluded but they tendered result from 366 leaving the balance of 22 polling units unaccounted for.
“Besides, they added the number of votes that exceeded the registered voters by over 100,000.
” Also at the lower court, the appellants branded the election invalid, If their relief is for the court to declare 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 the abnormality and he got a verdict which he did not seek.
“We plead the errors and urge the court to set aside the judgment of Jan 14.
However, the lawyer representing Uzodinma and his party, the All Progressives Congress, Damian Dodo,SAN, asked the court to dismiss the application for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Dodo argued the competence of the motion and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain same and therefore urged the apex court to strike out the motion filed by Ihedioha.
He submitted that having delivered its final decision, the Supreme Court has become fuctus officio and divested of jurisdiction over the same subject matter.
“By Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules 2014 prohibits the apex court from reviewing its judgment once given and delivered, save to correct clerical mistakes or accidental slip.
“There is a total lack of jurisdiction in this court to review the Jan. 14 judgment and the constitution does not enable this court to review its judgment.
” The judgment given on Jan. 14 is clear and explicit, the application constitutes an invitation to the Supreme Court to sit on appeal over its final decision,” Dodo argued.
NAN reports that the apex court had, in a unanimous judgment nullified the election of Ihedioha and ordered that Sen. Hope Uzodinma of the APC be sworn in as governor.
The court, which set aside the judgments of the state governorship election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which affirmed Iheodioha’s election, held that he was not validly elected as the governor of the state and consequently ordered that the certificate of return issued to him be retrieved and issued to Uzodinma.
Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who read the unanimous decision of the apex court on Jan. 14, held that the lower courts erred when it rejected the evidence tendered before them to the extent that the votes from the 388 polling units were not credited to the APC and Uzodinma.
All the members of the panel were Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amina Augie and Mary Abba-Aji