Ihedioha vs Uzodinma: Battle Shifts to March 2

Ihedioha vs Uzodinma: Battle Shifts to March 2

The titanic battle for the helmsman of Douglas House, Owerri shifts to early next month as the Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing of the case of Mr Emeka Ihedioha, former Governor of Imo State to March 2, 2020. Mr Ihedioha, also a former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, had approached the apex court with

The titanic battle for the helmsman of Douglas House, Owerri shifts to early next month as the Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing of the case of Mr Emeka Ihedioha, former Governor of Imo State to March 2, 2020. Mr Ihedioha, also a former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, had approached the apex court with an application asking it to reverse itself on the judgement sacking him from office as Governor.

The Supreme Court had fixed Tuesday, February 18th to hear the appeal filed by Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), one month after it sacked him on January 14 and declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Hope Uzodinma, as the duly elected Governor of Imo State.

At the hearing, lawyer to Mr Ihedioha, Mr Kanu Agabi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) filed an application stating that he needed a little time to file some processes before the Court.

Lawyers to Governor Hope Uzodinma and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not oppose the application.

The seven-man panel of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammed, after listening to all the parties, adjourned the hearing to March 2, 2020.

In his papers seeking to set aside the court’s earlier judgment, Mr Agabi observed that the beneficiary of the judgment, Governor Hope Uzodinma,  failed to plead the votes scored by all the parties in the 388 affected polling units, as it was only the votes scored by him that  were pleaded – an omission he said, rendered the petition incompetent.

He submitted that the consequence of this omission was that the apex court was misled into making a vague order directing the inclusion of votes from the 388 polling units without stating or specifying the particular number of votes to be included from those polling units for all the parties.

Agabi added that “without computing the votes for all the parties from the 388 polling units this honourable court was misled into making a declaration that the 1st Appellant/Respondent was the winner of the gubernatorial election in Imo State – an election that the Appellants/Respondents had themselves branded or stigmatized as invalid on account of non-compliance.

In a motion on notice filed pursuant to section 6(6) of the 1999 constitution, section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 2004, and the inherent jurisdiction of the court,  Ihedioha is seeking  setting aside of the judgment on the ground that it was obtained by fraud.

The motion which was filed by the legal team of the former Governor headed by Mr Agabi (SAN), was in respect of appeals Nos: SC. 1462/2019; SC/1470/2019; CA/OW/GOV/05/2019 and petition No: EPT/GOV/IM/08/2019, between Senator Hope Uzodinma, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It is the contention of Ihedioha that the judgment of the Supreme Court ought to be set aside as it us a nulity obtained by fraud.

On this ground, Ihedioha submitted that “the Appellants/Respondents (Uzodinma), fraudulently misled this court into holding that a total of 213,495 votes were unlawfully excluded from the votes scored by the 1st Appellant/Respondent in the gubernatorial election of 9th March 2019 in Imo State.

“In addition, it is the position of the former governor that the apex court gave the judgment without jurisdiction.

On this point, he argued that having regard to section 140(2) of the Electoral Act (as amended), the Appellants/Respondents divested this Honourable Court of the relevant jurisdiction to declare the 1st Appellant/ Respondent as the winner of the gubernatorial election conducted in Imo State on the 9th day of March 2019 by branding or stigmatizing the entire election as invalid.

“This Honourable Court had no jurisdiction to declare the 1st Appellant/Respondent as elected in an election petition which was based on two inconsistent and mutually exclusive grounds, to wit, (i) that the 1st Applicant was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election, the implication of which is that the majority of votes cast at the election were valid; and (ii) that the election was invalid for non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the implication of which is that the election be annulled.

This Honourable Court did not have the jurisdiction to declare the 1st Appellant/Respondent as elected in the absence of any proof that the votes ascribed to him met the mandatory geographical spread stipulated in section 179 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

This Honourable court did not have the jurisdiction to declare that the 1st Appellant/Respondent met the constitutional geographical spread without providing in its judgment the reason(s) for that conclusion.

The apex court had in a unanimous judgment delivered on January 14, removed Ihedioha on the grounds that he did not win a majority of the votes cast in the March 9 governorship election.

The court said Ihedioha was returned as Governor of Imo State based on wrong computation of the election results in the state.

In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the court voided the concurrent decisions of the tribunal and Court of Appeal, which had declared Ihedioha winner of the poll on the grounds that they both failed to take into account votes from 388 polling units in the election.

Justice Kekere-Ekun said that the lower court misconstrued the case of the appellants that he was challenging the validity of the election whereas he was challenging the unlawful exclusion of votes in the 388 polling units.

In addition, the court held that the excluded votes from the 388 polling units be ascribed to the appellants.

Consequently, the apex court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Ihedioha and issue a fresh one to the candidate of the APC, Uzodinma, on the grounds that he won majority of lawful votes cast in the election.

Mr Uzodinma and his party, the APC have however asked the Supreme Court to disregard the request by the sacked PDP, Mr Ihedioha for a review of its January 14, 2020, judgment.

In their joint response, published by The Nation on Sunday, Uzodinma and the APC are of the view that the request by Ihedioha and the PDP amounts to a mere academic exercise and an affront to the nation’s Constitution.

Uzodinma and the APC argued, in their a 19-paragraph counter-affidavit, deposed to by Mathew Joseph Mola, that it was late in the day for Ihedioha and his party to request the court to revisit their case at the expiration of the 60 days allowed by the Constitution for the Supreme Court to hear and determine post-election cases.

They contended that it was not part of the functions of the Supreme Court to sit on appeal over its own judgment as being demanded by Ihedioha and his party.

The respondents argued that since January 14 when the Supreme Court gave its decision, the court has since ceased to possess the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate on the case relating to the declaration of Uzodinma as the winner of the March 9, 2019, governorship election in Imo State.

Uzodinma and the APC also argued that the Supreme Court’s rule prevents it from reviewing its own judgment once delivered, except to correct clerical mistakes or accidental slips.

They added that as the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court jealously guides its process against abuse by litigants and does not indulge in academic exercise or provides answers to hypothetical questions

Uzodinma and the APC asserted that contrary to the claim by Ihedioha in his application, the scores of all the candidates in the election, as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were clearly set out.

They added that petitioners (Uzodinman and his party) whose votes were excluded from the declared results were entitled to compute the votes excluded in the presentation of his case.

The respondents denied the allegation by Ihedioha and the PDP, to the effect that Uzodinma admitted that he allocated votes to himself or that the votes in the 388 polling units were in excess of the registered voters.

They added that it was a matter of fact that the issue of total number of votes cast exceeding the total number of accredited voters did not arise from the petition or the appeal considered and determined by the Supreme Court.

The respondents added that the issue of the votes of 68 other candidates not being reflected was never raised by Ihedioha in the appeal that led to the judgment now been challenged.

They described the allegations by Ihedioha as wild and baseless and argued that Uzodinma and APC did not mislead the Supreme Court to perpetuate any fraud in the appeal that brought them to power.

Uzodinma and APC in their joint preliminary objection prayed the Supreme Court to strike out the request for being baseless and unwarranted.

In the preliminary objection filed by their lawyer, Mr Demian Dodo (SAN), the respondents, argued that Ihedioha’s application constituted a gross abuse of court process, exercise in futility and an attempt to force the apex court to sit on appeal in its own judgment.

They also argued that by the provision of Section 285 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court can no longer adjudicate on the case, since it has become statute barred.

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