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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Imo: Supreme Court seals Ihedioha’s fate, says it can’t reverse self

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By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The Supreme Court has said there is constitutional provision for it to reverse itself in the judgment it delivered sacking Emeka Ihedioha as Governor of the State, effectively putting paid to his ambition.
The former Imo state governor, Emeka Ihedioha, was seeking the apex court to review and set aside its own judgment that brought Senator Hope Uzodinma to power as the state governor.
Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of a seven member panel, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad after hearing the application filed by Ihedioha earlier in the day adjourned to deliver ruling in the matter.
On resumption, Justice Kayode
Ariwoola who delivered the lead judgment said Ihedioha’s application lacked merit.
“To ask us to set aside the judgment of this court is an invitation to sit on our own judgment. This application is hereby dismissed” he declared.
Ihedioha had approached the apex court to review its January 14, 2020 ruling that nullified his initial victory in the election.
INEC had declared Ihedioha as winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election on the ground that he won majority of lawful votes cast at the governorship poll.
The Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in their concurrent decisions in the appeal filed by Senator Uzodinma, upheld Ihedioha’s election and dismissed Uzodinma’s petition on grounds that he did not prove his allegations against the election of Ihedioha.
But the apex court held otherwise.
The apex court in its judgment disagreed with the decisions of the appeal 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 March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
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 issued a fresh one to Uzodinma.
The court accordingly ordered that Senator Uzodinma, candidate of the All Progressive Congress which came fourth in the election be sworn in as Governor of Imo State.
Disatisfied by the decision, Ihedioha, approached the apex court with a request to reverse his sack early this year on the grounds of nullity.
In arguing his application, Ihedioha’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, told the court that they are praying the court to change its mind because of certain inherent errors in the judgment that removed his client from office.
He claimed that the apex court did not consider the judgment of the Court of Appeal which struck out Uzodinma’s appeal for being incompetent, adding that as at the time the apex court gave its judgment, the decision was still substiting
Agabi pointed out another error he said was contained in the judgment, Agabi wondered where the issue of 388 polling units came about when in actual fact, Uzodinma had tendered results of 366 polling units which he claimed was excluded from the total figure of votes cast at the election.
He said, “the judgment gave them credit in 22 polling units from nowhere”, adding that, ” contrary to all precedent, the number of votes cast at the election exceeded the number of accreditation by 129,000″.
He also argued that the judgment did not show that the APC had the necessary Constitutional spread to be declared as winner of the election, adding that the appeallants ought not to have benefited from an election which they claimed was invalid by reason of alleged malpractices.
“They themselves stigmatized the election as been invalid and as such cannot be beneficiary. From all our pleadings and from evidence, 366 instead of 388 polling units have dispute.
“There is something wrong with them. It is a fatal error on the part of the Supreme Court. If he tendered results of 366 polling units and gets results in 388 polling units, how did he do it”, Agabi SAN submitted.
He therefore urged the court to set aside its judgment sacking Ihedioha and restore the verdict of the Court of Appeal.
He submitted that by section 6 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has all powers, including powers to correct its errors.
Responding, counsel to Uzodinma and the APC, Mr Damian Dodo SAN, urged the court to dismiss the application for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Dodo said they are opposing the application because the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it in the first place.
Dodo said, “Whether the application is characterized as an application for review or classified as an application to set aside or so ever dressed or clothed, this Court has consistently and rightly so held that it lacked powers to sit on appeal over its own judgment and this is what it is”.
He said said what the applicants are asking the court to do amounts to an invitation to review its judgment and that is not tenable.
He argued further that the judgment in dispute was clear enough and does not fall into any of those situations where the court can review its judgment, adding that reviewing this particular case would imply that the Supreme Court did not think through its judgment before it was delivered.
“The fundamental thing here is jurisdiction, the law says there is no jurisdiction for this court to sit on appeal over its own judgment”, he said, adding that for the court to set aside the judgment it must first hear the appeal, which is something the court does not allow.
He also refuted the claim that they called for the nullification of the election, explaining that a litigant has right to choose the best option in prosecuting his case.
According to him, the appellants abandoned that relief and relied only on the one praying the court to return them as winner of the poll following compelling evidence at their disposal that they won the election.
On the judgment of the Court of Appeal which dismissed their case, Dodo submitted that the judgment of the Supreme Court which set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal has completely taken care of all issues raised at the lower court.
He subsequently asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the application for lacking merit.

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