Zamfara: Supreme Court Maintains Finality Status, Dismisses APC’s Appeal

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Insists it lacked powers to set aside own judgment

By Chuks Okocha and Alex Enumah

The apex court in a four-to-one ruling yesterday refused to set aside its consequential order that made the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) beneficiary of all elective positions in the 2019 general election in Zamfara State.

Reacting to the judgment, National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, felicitated with the Zamfara State Governor Alhaji Bello Matawalle on his victory which he said was divine and urged him to be a good team leader.

The apex court in a majority ruling just like in earlier rulings held that the Supreme Court cannot review or set aside its judgment delivered in any matter except to correct clerical errors and other issues in line with Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court.

The lead judgment delivered by Justice Inyang Okoro reiterated the position of the court that it could not sit on appeal in its own judgment and accordingly dismissed the appeal.

Recall that the apex court had declined two previous judgment set aside request involving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) sacked Imo State Governor, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and All Progressives Congress (APC’s) Governor-Elect of Bayelsa State, David Lyon.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State had approached the apex court to set aside its judgment of May 24, 2019 which disqualified all candidates of the APC in the general election in Zamfara State on grounds of not conducting a valid primary for the selection of its candidates for all elective positions in the state.

The APC in the application said the apex court had the power to set aside the consequential order that brought candidates of the PDP into elective offices in Zamfara because the court lacked the jurisdiction to make such an order.

The APC in its submissions presented by his lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke, SAN, also argued that the May 24 judgment was a nullity and should be set aside because the order benefited a non-party in the suit, adding that the order disenfranchised the electorates of Zamfara who participated in the 2019 general election.

However, the apex court in its ruling agreed with the objection raised by counsel to the Senator Kabiru Marafa faction, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, that the application ran contrary to the provisions of Order 8 Rule 16 of the court which prohibits the apex court from reviewing or setting aside its own well considered judgment.

The court further held that the application brought by APC was an abuse of court process, incompetent and vexatious, because Order 8 Rule 16 was a clear and unambiguous law that prohibits it from going into a matter already decided.

Justice Okoro who cited several authorities to justify the position of the court made it clear that the farthest the Supreme Court could go in a matter already decided was to correct accidental errors and slips and not to sit as an appellate court in its own decision.

“Even, our fore-bearers did not leave anyone in doubt that a Supreme Court judgment, once delivered, cannot be adjudicated upon in the form of appeal by the same court,” he said.

Insisting that there must be an end to litigation, Justice Okoro held that the finality of the Supreme Court was sealed and that no one could come through the back door to interfere with it.

“The consequential order complained of by the applicant is a legitimate consequential order and this application seeking for its review and setting aside is vexatious and frivolous as it violently violates Order 8 Rule 16 of the court.

“Let me warn here that political parties must obey their own constitution and relevant laws and where they fail or refuse to obey, the hammer of the court will always fall on them.

“It is the duty of the court to always take decision that will prevent anarchy in this country,” he said.

Okoro warned lawyers to bring only serious matters before the apex court since the court is already filled with litigations right from the Magistrates Court.

In dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court however imposed a fine of N2 million on the APC to be paid to the Senator Kabiru Marafa faction in the appeal.

However, Justice Chima Nweze in his dissenting ruling held that the apex court could reverse itself if it was discovered that it made an error in arriving at its judgment.

According to Nweze, the consequential order was made in error because the PDP candidates in the last general election in Zamfara State were not parties in the appeal and ought not to have benefited from the judgment of the apex court.

Nweze held that the application was meritorious because the disqualified candidates in the appeal were not parties in the suit.

He accordingly upheld the application and granted the reliefs sought by the applicant.

“The consequential order complained against by the applicant has no bearing with the appeal brought by the APC and it hereby set aside, having been made in error,” Justice Nweze held

Secondus who spoke through his Media Aide, Ike Abonye, reminded the governor and the party in the state that their victory came from God as he urged the governor and his team to appreciate this fact and work hard to make a lasting mark with the mandate.

The National Chairman advised the governor to unite the people and move quickly to tackle the myriad of challenges facing the state, most of which stems from bad governance witnessed in the state in the past.

Secondus said. “God has designed this position for you for a purpose and you must do everything humanly possibly not to disappoint both the people and the almighty that sent you there.

“Identify critical stakeholders who can help you achieve your goals and refuse to be intimidated because you have a special mandate from God.”

Prince Secondus further charged PDP members in the state to give the Governor all the needed cooperation and support to help him deliver good governance to the good people of Zamfara state.