To Stymie Floodgate of Litigation, Supreme Court Settles Imo Governorship Deadlock

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Mr. Enema Ihedioha may not have succeeded in persuading a majority of the Supreme Court judges to reverse the judgement which sacked him as Governor of Imo State, but he was able to test the provisions of the law to its limit, thereby opening a vista of hope for future litigants under similar circumstance

Arguably, one of the most contended verdicts of the 2019 national elections has finally been put to rest with the Supreme Court’s dismissal yesterday of an application filed by Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, requesting the apex court to review its judgement of January 14, 2020 which sacked him as the governor of Imo State and gave the governorship seat to Senator Hope Uzodinma.

The final judgement on Tuesday also carried a good dose of the controversies that have trailed the 2019 governorship election in Imo State. It has been a hard fought battle for both Iheadioha and Uzodinma who have both won and lost at different curves of the race.

The fact that there was a dissenting voice among the seven justices of the Supreme Court, railed the judgment into a split decision, with six judges deciding against Ihedioha’s request. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, on behalf of the majority justices, said the court lacks jurisdiction to review its decision in the case.

But one judge thought otherwise. Justice Chima Nweze maintained that the apex court could set aside an earlier judgement delivered in error. He rightly pointed at precedents to buttress his stand. He held that the court was misled in declaring Hope Uzodinma as governor and subsequently ordered his removal from office.

Justice Nweze held that Uzodinma failed to give evidence of how he won the election. The judge agreed with Ihedioha’s lawyers that the votes used to declare Uzodinma winner was in excess of the accredited votes for the election.

It was also the considered opinion of Justice Nweze that the notion of the finality of the Supreme Court and legal certainty does not and cannot extinguish the inherent jurisdiction of the court to redeem itself.

Ihedioha may not have succeeded in persuading a majority of the Supreme Court judges, but he was able to test the provisions of the law to its limit, thereby opening a vista of hope for future litigants under similar circumstance. Apparently, the six justices who dismissed Ihedioha’s application including the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amina Augie and Mary Abba-Aji, did so to stymie an anticipated floodgate of litigations from all manner of aggrieved politicians.

The majority of the Supreme Court judges held that the general law is that the court has no power to alter or vary any Judgment expected to correct error, or an order with is a nullity, or judgment or order made against a party of default.

“By the provisions of the rules of the court, it shall not review any judgment delivered by it safe for any accidental slip or clerical errors.

“It is settled law that the court has no power on appeal on its Judgment.

“The court has no inherent power to exercise its power over matter which its lacks jurisdiction

“There is no constitutional provision for the review of the Supreme Court judgment by itself .

“Once the court delivers its judgment it becomes funtus officio.

“Inherent power of the court can only be invoke if there is a missing link in the judgment hence this application is considered as lacking in merit.”

Therefore, the Supreme Court in a six to one judgment refused to set aside its judgment that removed Honourable Emeka Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State and replaced him with Senator Hope Uzodinma.

Unlike an earlier judgement delivered by the Supreme Court that awarded heavy costs to be paid by counsels, in this instance, the court ruled that parties in the case should bear their cost.