The Supreme Court has adjourned hearing of the application filed by the former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, challenging the judgement of the court that sacked him.
The court adjourned hearing to March 2. Kanu Agabi (SAN) counsel to Ihedioha and PDP, asked for an adjournment to enable the parties to conclude on the processes that are being filed and served.
Counsel to Uzodinma and APC, Damian Dodo (SAN) did not oppose the application. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad led seven other members in hearing the application of Ihedioha and the members of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Zamfara State challenging the decisions of the court.
Other members of the panel are: Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Kayode Ariwoola, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Inyang Okoro, Amina Augie, and Uwani Abba-Aji.
Emeka Ihedioha had prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment it delivered on Jan. 14. The Supreme Court on Jan.14, nullified Ihedioha’s election as Imo governor and declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressive Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state. Ihedioha made the request in an application he and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) filed at the Supreme Court through their lawyer Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN.
They brought their application pursuant to Section 6 (6) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 2004. The application was supported with an affidavit sworn to by a Uchenna Njoku, a lawyer He said that the apex court was misled into giving that judgment, describing the apex court judgment as a nullity, and asked that the decision be set aside.
Ihedioha and the PDP claimed that Gov. Uzodinma and his party fraudulently misled the apex court into holding that 213,495 votes were unlawfully excluded from the votes they scored in the governorship election held on March 9, 2019. They said that Uzodinma, while under cross-examination, admitted that he was the person, who computed the result that gave him the 213,495 votes alleged to have been excluded from his total votes in the election and not INEC.
According to them, “The fraudulent nature of the additional votes was demonstrated by the fact that the total votes cast as shown in the first appellant/respondent’s computation was more than the total number of voters accredited for the election and in some polling units more than the total number of registered voters. The fraud was also demonstrated by the fact that the result computed by the first appellant/respondent showed only the votes of the first applicant and the first appellant/respondent without specifying the votes scored by the other 68 candidates who participated in the election.”
They further argued that the judgment, “which is a nullity ought to be set aside because it was given per incuriam, meaning the previous court judgment failed to pay attention to relevant statutory provision or precedents. That the judgment is a nullity having been delivered without jurisdiction. They also said that by Exhibit A1, the total number of voters accredited for the election was 823, 743 while the total valid votes cast was 731, 485. Also, part of their argument, was that the inclusion of 213, 695 votes for the first appellant/respondent, made the total number of votes cast at the election to be more than the total number of votes accredited for the election.
The applicants, among other grounds, argued that the majority judgment of the Court of Appeal dismissing Uzodinma’s petition as incompetent continues to subsist as the appeal against that decision was not considered by the apex court.
The Supreme Court had on January 14 nullified the victory of Ihedioha, who was earlier declared the winner by INEC. The apex court declared Uzodinma winner of the election in a unanimous judgment of the seven-member panel, read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun.
The court agreed that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final governorship election result in Imo State. Kekere-Ekun said that with the results from the 388 polling units added, Uzodinma polled a majority of the lawful votes and ought to have been declared the winner of the election by the.
The court, however, did not provide the details of the new votes scored by each of the candidates after the addition of the results from the 388 polling units. Also, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo went to the Supreme Court asking it to dismiss an application filed by former governor of the state, Emeka Ihedioha.
They prayed the Supreme Court for an order setting aside “as a nullity the judgment delivered by it on January 14. Uzodimma and APC’s preliminary objection against Ihedioha was brought pursuant to Section 6(6)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. The objection raised and argued the competence of the motion and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain same and therefore urged the apex court to strike out the motion filed by Ihedioha. They said that the application being a proceeding relating to or arising from election of a governor is barred by effluxion of time.
“The application constitutes an invitation to the Supreme Court to sit on appeal over its final decision” Uzodimma posited.
They submitted that having delivered its final decision, the Supreme Court has become fuctus officio and divested of jurisdiction over the same subject matter. They said: Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules 2014 prohibits the apex court from reviewing its judgment once given and delivered, save to correct clerical mistakes or accidental slip.
“The judgment sought to be set aside having been given effect by the inauguration of Uzodinma as Governor of Imo , this Honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to grant the prayer sought”.
More so, Uzodimma stated that Ihedioha’s application “constitutes an abuse of court process” and “is against public policy. He added that the application filed by the ousted governor amounts to an invitation to the Court to indulge in academic exercise and answer hypothetical questions.
The March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election in Imo state, INEC had declared Ihedioha as winner of the poll. Aggrieved by the declaration of Ihedioha by INEC as winner of the governorship election, Uzodimma and APC challenged the said declaration by way of a petition.
The petition ultimately led to the appeal by Uzodimma and APC against the decision of the Court of Appeal which by majority decision dismissed their appeal against the decision of the Election Tribunal to apex court.
Uzodimma also reminded the Supreme Court that that amongst the orders issued in the judgment by His Lordships was Order 7 which read: “It is hereby ordered that a certificate of return shall be issued to the 1st appellant, Uzodinma forthwith and he should be sworn in as the Governor of lmo State immediately. He said the above order has since been made effective by his inauguration as the Governor of lmo.
However, the Supreme Court on Jan. 14, held that there was merit in the appeal filed by Uzodimma and allowed same. Consequently, the judgment of the lower court affirming the judgment of the Governorship Election Tribunal which declared Ihedioha winner of the Imo governorship election, was set aside.
Among the orders, the Supreme Court declared that votes due to the Uzodinma and APC from 388 polling units were wrongly excluded from the score ascribed to them. It ordered that the appellants’ votes from the 388 polling units unlawfully excluded from the Appellants’ score shall be added to the results declared by the INEC.
The Supreme Court also declared that Ihedioha was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the said election, and that his return as the elected Governor of Imo was null and void and accordingly set aside.