By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The request by former Governor of Imo State, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, to have judgment that ousted him from office reviewed suffered a 12-day delay at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Hearing in the request scheduled by the apex court for was stalled by Ihedioha’s lead counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN on the premise that he was not prepared to proceed with the application.
Agabi told a 7- man panel of the Supreme Court Justices that he needed to respond to processes filed by the incumbent Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, and the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Immediately after the case was called, Agabi informed the Justices led by the Chief Justice of Nigeia CJN, Ibrhim Tanko Muhammad that he needed to respond to a process served on him the previous day by the respondents.
Ihedioha in the application filed on February 6, is asking the apex court to set aside its judgment which removed him from office on the grounds that the judgment was a nullity and as such liable for a review and subsequently reversal.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had last March declared Ihedioha the winner of the March 9 governorship election having won majority of lawful votes cast at the governorship poll.
Similarly, the Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in their concurrent decisions upheld Ihedioha’s election on the grounds that Senator Hope Uzodinma did not prove his allegations against the election of Ihedioha.
However, the Supreme Court in its January 14 judgment disagreed with the decisions of the lower court on the grounds that they erred in law when they excluded votes from 388 polling units from the total scores at the poll.
According to the apex court in the judgment delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, when the excluded votes totalling over 200,000 were added, Uzodinma and not Ihedioha actually won majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.
The apex court consequently declared Uzodinma Governor of Imo State and ordered the INEC to withdraw the earlier certificate of return issued to Ihedioha and issue a fresh one to Uzodinma.
However, Ihedioha in the application he filed on February 6 is asking the apex court to set aside the judgment that sacked him as governor on the grounds that the judgment was procured by fraud.
Ihedioha and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the court was misled because the petition against his election was speculative.
Uzodinma had alleged that votes from 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded or cancelled and urged the court to include them in the final computation of the election results.
But Ihedioha disputed the claim saying that Uzodinma and his party, APC failed to plead the votes scored by all the parties in the 388 affected polling units as only votes allegedly scored by APC and PDP were pleaded, “an omission which rendered the petition incompetent”.
The former governor further argued that by Exhibit A1 (Form EC8D) the total number of voters accredited for the Governorship Election held on 9th March 2019 in Imo State was 823,743,while the total valid votes cast was 731,485.
“It is unlawful for the total number of votes cast in an election to exceed the number of accredited voters and that illegality rendered the judgment sought to be set aside null and void.
Another reason Ihedioha and PDP gave in their application was that the judgment was obtained by fraud and deceit.
The applicants accordingly asked the court for an order setting aside as a nullity the judgment delivered by the Court on the 14th of January 2020 in Appeal No. SC.1462/2019 and Cross Appeal No. SC.1470/2019.
However Governor Hope Uzodinma has asked the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit and a waste of the court’s precious time having been caught up with Section 285 of the 1999 constitution, which provides a 60 days life span for the hearing and determination of the appeal.
Uzodinma and the APC who are 1st and 2nd respondents respectively, in their reply to Ihedioha’s motion claimed that the request is nothing but a mere academic exercise and an affront to the 1999 constitution.
In a 19 paragraphs affidavit filed in opposition to Ihedioha’s application, the governor and his party asserted that the 60 days allowed for the Supreme Court by the Constitution has since lasped.
“It is now a settled law that the 60 days time limit to determine and conclude litigation on election matters is sacrosanct and cannot be extended under any guise”, they insisted in the counter-affidavit filed on their behalf by the lawyer, Mr Damian Dodo SAN.
When the matter was called, Ihedioha’s lawyer informed the court that, “processes are still coming in” and as such he would be asking for adjournment, adding that he was only served the day before with the respondents process.
Counsel to Uzodinma and APC, Mr Damian Dodo SAN and INEC, Mr Inuwa Tanimu SAN did not oppose the request for adjournment.
Consequently the CJN adjourned the matter to March 2 for hearing.
Other Justices sitting in the panel include; Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Kayode Ariwoola, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amina Augie, Adamu Galinje and Uwani Aba-Aji.
Meanwhile, hearing in another appeal by the All Progressive Congress APC in Zamfara State also praying the apex court to review its judgment was also adjourned till March 2.
The APC is asking the court to review the consequential order which barred it from participating in the 2019 general election due to inability of the party to conduct primary election.
Hearing in the matter brought by their lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke was shifted to March 2 upon the discovery that two respondents in the matter were not in court and were not served hearing notice.
The CJN while adjourning the matter said necessary parties were not before the court as required by law and as such the matter could not go on.
Chief Clarke while opening the case of the APC said that they were not attacking the judgment of the court as a nullity but rather praying the apex court to review the consequential order that prohibited APC from fielding candidate for the general election in the state.
(Updated) Imo: Ihedioha’s Request on Judgment Review Moved 12 Days ForwardSuffers Setback In Supreme Court
By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja