Alex Enumah in Abuja and Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto
Anxiety has gripped members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Zamfara State as the Supreme Court friday rules on the APC’s application asking the apex court to set aside the consequential order that made the PDP the beneficiary of all elective positions in the 2019 general election in the state.
A five-man panel led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, had on March 17 reserved judgment in the case till a date that will be communicated to that parties shortly after lawyers representing parties in the matter adopted their briefs of argument.
However, a short message from the Director, Information, Supreme Court, Dr. Festus Akande, to journalists said the apex court would deliver its ruling in the appeal friday.
The ruling of the apex court is coming barely few days after the apex court suspended sitting indefinitely over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The apex court in a circular dated March 23, 2020 and signed by the Chief Registrar of the court, Mrs. Hadizatu Mustapha, had announced a temporary suspension of court sitting in response to directives on curtailing the spread of the pandemic.
The statement, however, said the court would only convene to deliver judgments and rulings in matters adjourned for such.
However, as the court delivers its ruling in the Zamfara judgment review request, politicians and other Nigerians are anxious to know if the apex court will stick to its tradition of finality on issues already settled or deviate from it.
The apex court had declined to set aside two previous judgments involving the removal of Imo State Governor, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, of PDP and that of the then Governor-elect of Bayelsa State, Senator David Lyon of APC.
While arguing the application for setting aside of the consequential order that barred its clients from the 2019 general election, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) had informed the panel that the order was made out of jurisdiction.
Clarke said the APC, which brought the application challenging the consequential order, was not against the main judgment because the party did not conduct primary election for nomination of candidates for the 2019 general election.
The senior lawyer who admitted bringing the application for the second time said what the Supreme Court ought to have done was to order a fresh primary election and election for all elective positions in the state.
He informed the panel that the consequential order, which made the PDP candidates for all elective offices winners, was in bad taste and ought to be reversed.
Clarke said it was wrong of the apex court to have declared over 400,000 votes as wasted simply because APC at the time did not conduct primary election known to law because of its internal dispute.
He therefore urged the court to invoke its inherent jurisdiction to set aside the consequential order that brought PDP to power in Zamfara State and instead should order APC to conduct a fresh primary election and to also order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct new election into all elective offices in Zamfara State.
However, Senator Kabiru Marafa, who is the first respondent in the matter, urged the apex court to dismiss the request of the APC for want of jurisdiction and merit.
Marafa, through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), informed the panel that the APC’s application was caught by Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, which prescribed 60 days for hearing and determination starting from the date the notice of appeal was filed.
Ozekhome argued that the apex court gave final judgment in the Zamfara governorship tussle over 10 months ago, adding that bringing such application for the second time is a gross abuse of the process of the apex court.
He urged the court to dismiss the application with huge punitive fine to keep the party away from further abuse of court process.
Ozekhome cited the decision of the court in the Bayelsa and Imo States’ governorship tussles, adding that the apex court has made it clear that its judgment on any issue is final for all times, ages and that no force on earth can change the decision except a law made to that effect.
The CJN after taking submissions from counsel, reserved ruling to a date to be communicated to parties in the matter.
Meanwhile, the supporters of APC and PDP yesterday told THISDAY that today’s apex court’s ruling will favour them.
In an interview with THISDAY, the Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy to Governor Bello Matawalle, Mr. Zailani Bappa, said the people of the state were expecting nothing less than victory for the governor.
According to Bappa, there is no cause for alarm, adding that the stage is set for the apex court to dismiss the case.
“Though I am not a lawyer, with the look of things, the apex court cannot contradict itself. You know this is the second time these people are calling for the review, which they know is not possible.
“Those making noise about this case are Abuja-based politicians who were rejected by the good people of Zamfara because of the pains they previously inflicted on the people.
“The Supreme Court has clearly stated in the case of Lyon and Diri and the case between Ihedioha and Uzodinma that the case is as dead as corpse in the mortuary ready for burial as argued by Mike Ozekhome (SAN),” he stated.
He explained that the atmosphere in the state was calm and the people are not expecting anything different from the previous judgment affirming Matawalle as the governor of the state.
But the state’s Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Shehu Isah, told THISDAY that if justice is done to the case, APC would be victorious.
“What we are saying is that the justices should look at the the merit of the case and do the needful,” he stated.
The state Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Mr. Muhammad Shehu, did not respond to THISDAY’s enquiry on the security measures being put in place to maintain peace and order.
But Gusau, the state capital, was calm yesterday as people went about their normal businesses.
The Supreme Court had last year ordered that the candidates of parties that came second in the 2019 general election be inaugurated as winners following the nullification of the nominations of APC candidates on account of failure to conduct valid primary as required by law.