…as Supreme Court seals APC’s fate, upholds verdict sacking Lyon
The hope of the sacked Imo State Governor, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, to have the judgement that sacked him reviewed by the Supreme Court seems to be dim, following yesterday’s verdict of the apex court wherein it upheld its earlier decision sacking the then governor-elect of Bayelsa State, David Lyon.
The same fate likely awaits the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State.
The judgement as delivered in the Bayelsa matter portrayed a likely situation where the apex court will decline to reverse itself.
The Supreme Court had refused to review its earlier judgement of February 13, 2020, which sacked Lyon and his deputy, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo of APC.
The apex court consequently dismissed the two applications that sought to set aside the said judgement for being “vexatious, frivolous and constituted a gross abuse of court process.”
A seven-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta held that the applications amount to an invitation for the apex court to sit in appeal on its earlier judgement in violation of the constitution.
Justice Ngwuta held that it would amount to violating the finality of its judgement if the applications were granted.
Justice Amina Augie who read the lead judgement held that granting the applications would open a floodgate for the review of decisions of the Supreme Court.
She said the request to review the judgement was vexatious, frivolous and regrettable.
Augie in the unanimous ruling came down heavily on the counsel to the applicants, Are Afe Babalola (SAN) and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) for filing the motions, which the court described as regrettable motions and a deliberate desecration of the judiciary.
She held that with tears in her eyes, she regretted that “very senior” lawyers were responsible for filing the applications.
“With tears in my eyes, I feel sad that senior counsel in this case would ever bring this kind of frivolous applications during my life time,” Justice Augie said.
Justice Augie held that by Order 8, Rule 16 of the Supreme Court, the court has no powers or authority to review any judgement delivered on merit, safe for clerical error.
“This court is not authorised and indeed lacked jurisdiction to review any judgment delivered on merit, more so when the applicants have not pointed out any accidental error or slip in the judgement. There must be an end to every litigation.
“This is final court and its decisions are final for all ages so as to ensure certainty in law.
“The two applications brought before us today lacked merit and constituted abuse of this court and they are liable to dismissal and are hereby dismissed,” the court held.
With the verdict of the apex court, the coast seems unclear for Ihedioha and Zamfara APC as the Supreme Court hears the applications on Monday.
The Supreme Court had, on January 14, in a unanimous decision, sacked Ihedioha as governor of Imo State.
The apex court hinged its decision on the ground that Ihedioha, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), did not score majority of the lawful vote in the March 9 governorship election.
The full panel of the court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammad, however, ordered that the candidate of APC, Senator Hope Uzodinma, be issued a certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the duly elected governor of the state.
Delivering the lead judgement, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun held that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final governorship election result in the state.
The court held that with the results from the 388 polling units, the APC governorship candidate polled majority lawful vote and ought to have been declared winner of the election by INEC.
Consequently, the court, in the unanimous judgement, voided and set aside the declaration of Ihedioha as the winner of the 2019 governorship election.
The court ordered that the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha of PDP be immediately withdrawn by INEC and a fresh one issued to Uzodinma as the elected governor.
Ihedioha had, however, on January 26, returned to the apex court for a review of the judgement sacking him.
The apex had consequently fixed March 2 for hearing of the suit.
Also, the Zamfara APC had equally approached the apex court for a review of the judgement that nullified its victory.
The Supreme Court had, on August 22, 2019, struck out the APC’s application, but it was refilled in November 2019 by the party’s counsel, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN).
The five-man panel, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, had on August 22, 2019, unanimously struck out the application on the grounds that it was incompetent as the complete judgements of the apex court comprising all the judgements of the five members of the panel being contested by the party were not attached to the application.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour, who delivered the ruling, said the applicant only attached the lead judgement and failed to exhibit the consenting judgements of the four other members of the panel, which gave the May 24, 2019 verdict.
“By our rules, the application is incompetent and it is hereby struck out,” he ruled.
The apex court had, in a unanimous judgement of the five-man panel led by the CJN, Justice Muhammad, delivered on May 24, 2019, declared that APC never conducted primary elections and thus had no valid candidates for the general election.
It held that all the votes credited to the party and its candidates in the elections were wasted.
The apex court then declared the first runners-up in the 2019 general election in the state as winners of all the offices earlier declared to have been won by APC and its candidates.
APC had been declared the winner of the governorship election, as well as the entire three senatorial seats, seven House of Representatives seats and the 24 House of Assembly seats, contested in the February 23 and March 11, 2019 general election in the state.
With the governorship and deputy governorship seats, which the party had won in the elections, APC had won all the 36 elective offices available in the state.
The apex court retrieved the victories recorded by APC, adjudged not to have fielded valid candidates for the said election and gave them to the second runners-up in the polls.
But APC, through its counsel, Clarke, filed an application on June 17, 2019, asking the Supreme Court to “review, amend, correct and/or set aside the consequential orders” contained in the May 24, 2019 judgement of the apex court.
PDP had equally threatened earlier in the week that it will return to the apex court for a review of the Presidential appeal, which favoured President Muhammadu Buhari, and that of Osun, Kano, Kaduna and Katsina guber appeals.