Controversies trailing the Supreme Court’s judgements on Imo and Zamfara states have become a subject of adjudication at the apex court where concerned stakeholders want the court to either reverse itself or stand on its decision.
At the centre of this are the sacked Imo state governor, Emeka Ihedioha and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the incumbent, Senator Hope Uzodinma as well as his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Similarly, Zamfara state Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle and his party-the PDP-are also dragged before the apex court by the APC factional governorship candidate in the state, Senator Kabir Marafa, who is praying the court to declare him as governor based on his claim of being the party’s candidate after the primaries.
In the Zamfara suit, Mr. Robert Clarks, SAN, represented the APC and other appellants, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, represented Senator Marafa and first to 140 respondents, Alhassan Umar, SAN, standing in for the 179threspondent, while Adekunle Otitoju 180th respondent.
However, the matter got stalked when the court discovered that the 141st-178th respondents were not represented nor proof of service of hearing notification served on them.
The court frowned at the development and asked parties in the suit to sort it out among themselves, while adjourning till March 2, 2020 for hearing.
Also, the sacked governor of Imo state, Mr. Ihedioha has asked the apex court to set aside its earlier judgement that declared Uzodinma of the APC winner of the March 9, 2019 election in the state.
When the matter came up for mention Tuesday, Ihedioha and his party requested for seven days from to regularise their processes.
The appellants filed the application through their counsel, Kanu Agabi, SAN.
They contended that Uzodinma obtained the judgement by deceit, saying the apex court was misled to have given that judgement.
Ihedioha described the judgement as a nullity, asking that it be set aside.
However, while opposing Ihedioha’s application and claims, the APC, through its lawyer, Damian Dodo, SAN, in a 19-paragraph affidavit argued that the 60-day time lag allowed by the constitution for hearing had since elapsed.
The counter affidavit stated partly: “The undisputed facts relating to the respondents’/applicants’ motion hereinafter referred to as “the motion” are to the effect that the judgement of the Court of Appeal was delivered on 21st September, 2019, while the one sought to be set aside was delivered on 14th January, 2020.
“Clearly, the 60 days allowed by Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for this Hon. Court to hear and determine an appeal from the Court of Appeal in an election matter, lapsed on January 17, 2020. The motion to set aside was filed on February 5, 2020, 19 days after the time allowed by the Constitution.
“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 by any guise.”
Upon the defendant’s submission, Agabi, counsel to Ihedioha, asked the court to grant him a short adjournment to enable him file and receive all processes needed to prove his case.
Respondents in the case did not however raise any objection on the application.
Having listened to all the parties, the seven-member panel led by Chief Justice of Nigeria Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed adjourned to March 2, 2020 for hearing.
Commenting on the decision by the Supreme Court to review the matters, senior lawyers said whatever position the apex court takes on any matter is sacrosanct, adding however that it’s within the lordships’ power to either allow a review of such positions or not.
Speaking on the matter in an exclusive interview with Blueprint prior to Tuesday’s sitting, an Abuja-based senior legal practitioner, Mr. Richard Dauda held that the apex court has done its bit.
“Don’t forget that the apex court has the final say on all matters brought for adjudication. So, I will say that the Supreme Court has done what it should in the circumstances.
“For Imo state, yes, the verdict of the apex court could be a new precedent. You know the law is evolving. We cannot say that because it has not been done before, so the apex court won’t do it.
“As for the agitation for possible reversal or review as being agitated, It is left for the Supreme Court to decide if it wants to entertain that is being sought by the political parties or not.”
On Zamfara, Dauda argued that “the case of Zamfara is fundamentally different from that of Imo state.
“You see, the law guiding the electoral processes in Nigeria is very clear. The apex court took the decision then in the case of Zamfara state judgement that paved way for the current PDP governor in order for orderliness to be maintained and for governance to continue.
“I also believe that the apex court in the land would not deny anyone the rights to approach the court for any interpretation or judicial review where necessary. It is the counsel and their parties’ rights to do so and it is recognised by the constitution.”
Expressing similar position, another senior lawyer and notable arbitrator, Mr. Isaac Anumudu told our reporter that “the law is very clear.”
He said: “It is an inherent power of court to adjudicate and review judgements. This is what is called common law powers of court.
“The court can as well go ahead to churn out valid points to justify the veracity of such judgement, saying another opportunity has presented itself.
“Where you are able to convince the court by bringing materials and prove to court that in arriving at certain decision, it made a mistake and, that the decision was wrong then for the court now to say it cannot reverse itself remains a different thing altogether. Even computers made mistakes and paid customers wrongly in banks despite its acclaimed sophistication.
“It is also recognisable that the Supreme Court in the Adesanya Motors reviewed its own judgement when it found out that it was a judgement that was not supposed to be given.
“So, if that is what the Supreme Court is being called upon to do in the case of Imo state verdict just delivered, then it is incumbent on that court to show that it is a highly responsible institution that can be trusted and relied upon. In essence, I think the aggrieved should be listened to so as to clear doubts, uncertainty and apprehension in the minds of the people.”