The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended vested the judicial power of the federation and the states in the courts established by the Constitution of which the Supreme Court is the apex court. Supreme Court decisions ought to be final except in rare cases where it decides to review or reverse itself, and there must be reasonable grounds for this.
My heart bled and I wept for Nigeria when for the first time in our history, I found thousands of citizens across the country took to the streets to protest against the Supreme Court of Nigeria, thereby raising the question, how did we get here? The image of the Judiciary is currently at its lowest point and people are no longer happy. If justice becomes too tall to get, peace and stability which are necessary for the development of any society will become too tall to achieve. This why the Supreme Court must guard against any form of injustice.
I have heard the argument advanced by some people on why the Supreme Court cannot revisit, review or reverse its decision in the case of Ihedioha v Uzodimma because there must be an end to litigation. I for one do not subscribe to endless litigations. However, here is my humble take: ‘If the Supreme Court had sentenced a man to death to die by hanging and before the execution of that judgement, new facts capable of exonerating the convict emerged, should the Supreme Court in the face of new and credible evidence allow the innocent man to die by hanging? I will expect the Supreme Court to find a way to reverse itself even without prompting. The justices of the Supreme Court are not God. They are not angels. They are humans and are capable of making mistakes. In this case I believe some fatal mistakes were made and those are errors too obvious to be ignored.
Removing a governor or president from office in our political constitution is equivalent to death because the will of the people is altered, buried and thrown into hell and uncertain future. This is why today in Imo there is grief, sadness, anger, sorrow, anguish, weeping and crying. Nothing in recent memory has broken the hearts of people like the January 14 Supreme Court Judgement.
By the time this piece is being read, The deposed governor, Emeka Ihedioha may have returned to the Supreme Court to seek a review of the judgment that removed him from office. Recall that the Supreme Court ruled on January 14 that INEC should withdraw the certificate of return issued to Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party as the winner of the contest and thus Governor of Imo State and hand same over to Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress. It asserted that Uzodimma scored the highest votes and should immediately be sworn in as governor.
Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun read the lead judgement of the unanimous verdict of the court. The Supreme Court based its ruling on the evidence brought by a police officer, DCP Husseini that testified at the Appeal Court as PW-54. DCP Husseini brought election results from 388 polling units that the court said were excluded unlawfully from the overall collated results. Votes from the 388 polling units amounted to 213, 295 and they all strangely went to Mr. Uzodimma.
INEC records show that Imo State had 3, 523 polling units. Its initial result credited Uzodimma with 96, 458 votes from 3, 135 polling units. Kekere-Ekun directed the addition of the cooked 213, 295 votes from 388 polling units to the 96, 458 votes earlier accredited to Uzodimma. It then took Uzodimma’s tally to 309, 753.
The result posed a significant challenge, however. With the new calculation by the Supreme Court, Imo State then had the dubious distinction of an election result ordered by the Supreme Court where votes allotted exceeded the number of accredited voters. It remains a sore point and source of embarrassment regarding the Supreme Court’s decision. The singular fact that our Supreme Court couldn’t add the maths and the fact that such an error could escape the eyes of a panel of seven judges remains a mystery. Poor quality judgments emanating from our court is hurting the image of this country. We are now a laughing stock and butt of jokes amongst civilized nations.
There are also other troubling aspects of the judgement. For instance, the Supreme Court showed inconsistency in the way to admit evidence. The Supreme Court gave probative value to the proof of evidence of PW-54, a police officer, thus relying on an uncertified public document Form EC8A. The electoral law recognizes only INEC and its staff for certifying election results. The Supreme Court overruled INEC and the lower courts and admitted the document brought by a witness who ordinarily does not qualify to present election results. This is turning the Evidence Act upside down especially given that the same Supreme Court took a different stance in the recent case of Atiku v Buhari.
There are many ramifications of the Supreme Court ruling. For one, it means that public documents do not need certification for acceptance in transactions with the Supreme Court judgement as evidence. It means an investor may lose his real estate investment because someone or group came up with purported copies of title documents without certification from the Lands Registry on it. Such a scenario could happen even if the investor holds the original document. If this judgement is allowed to stand it means the Supreme Court has inadvertently opened the door for lower quality of documentary evidence to be admissible in our courts. Or will they ring-fence the Imo judgement so that no one can cite it?
Note that this judgement is against the backdrop of the reduced credibility of Nigerian documents in the international arena. It is more so for people dealing with investors from other countries. There are implications for business dealings, contracts and foreign investments. Worst of it is the fact that the judgement came at the time Nigeria is being adjudged as a corrupt country by Transparency International.
The judgement also has put further dent on the credibility of INEC as electoral umpire. It is important for INEC to speak to this judgement where an officer of the Nigeria Police Force brought documents INEC had rejected only for the Supreme Court to now accept it.
Perhaps, all the mistakes made in the instant case was occasioned by the speed the matter was treated. Now that the matter has been brought again to the attention of the Court, though not as an appeal but for discretional review, my lords should take their time to view the new facts with an open mind. If they can convince themselves that they were scammed, they should not only reverse themselves but also deal with the persons behind the scam.