Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court has adjourned till March 2 to hear the application by former Imo State Governor Emeka Ihedioha, who is seeking the setting aside of the January 14 judgment of the court that removed him from office.
The adjournment follows a request by Ihedioha’s lead counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) to enable him to put in more processes relating to the motion.
Agabi, who appeared with other senior lawyers including Chief Emeka Etiaba informed the apex court that more applications seeking to grind his motion are still coming in and he needed a short adjournment to respond to them.
His application was not opposed to by counsel to Governor Hope Uzodinma, Chief Damien Dodo (SAN) and that of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Taminu Inuwa (SAN).
It was consequently granted by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko, who adjourned the matter to March 2.
Other Justices on the panel are Justices Amina Augie, Uwani Abba Aji, Sylvester Ngwuta, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and Olukayode Ariwoola.
The Supreme Court had in its judgment, now a subject of review, sacked governor Ihedioha and ordered that Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) be sworn in as the validly elected governor of Imo State.
Following the judgment, Ihedioha filed a motion asking the court to set aside its January 14 judgment on the ground that it was fraudulently obtained by the incumbent governor of the state, Hope Uzodinma.
The motion was filed pursuant to section 6(6) of the 1999 constitution, section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 2004.
The motion, which was filed by the legal team of the former governor headed by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), was in respect of appeals Nos: SC. 1462/2019; SC/1470/2019; CA/OW/GOV/05/2019and 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 Iheadioha that the judgment of the Supreme Court sought to be set aside is a nullity as it was obtained by fraud.
On this ground, Iheadioha 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.
He further submitted that “the 1st Appellant/Respondent admitted under cross-examination that he was the person (and not the 3rd Respondent [INEC] or any of its officials) who computed the result that gave him the 213,495 votes alleged to have been excluded from his total votes in the election.
“The fraudulent nature of the additional votes was demonstrated by the fact that the total votes cast as shown in the 1st 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 1st Appellant/Respondent showed only the votes of the 1st Applicant and the 1st Appellant/Respondent without specifying the votes scored by the other 68 candidates who participated in the election.
He told the apex court that the fraud was further demonstrated by Exhibits 63RD1 to 63RD19 (INEC Forms EC40G) which show that there were no valid elections in the 388 polling units where the additional 213,495 votes claimed by the 1st Appellant/Respondent were allegedly generated.
Another reason adduced for the setting aside of the judgment was that it is a nullity because it was given per incuriam.
He stated that by Exhibit A1 (Form EC8D) the total number of voters accredited for the Governorship Election held on 9th March 2019 in Imo State was 823,743, while the total valid votes cast was 731,485.
However, responding to the motion Governor Hope Uzodimma asked the Supreme Court to dismiss an application filed by former Governor Emeka Ihedioha, seeking the setting aside of its January 14 judgment that removed him from office.
The governor position is contained in his preliminary objection challenging the competence of Ihedioha’s motion.
In the said motion dated February 5, Ihedioha prayed the apex court for an order setting aside “as a nullity the judgment delivered by it on the 14th of January, 2020 in Appeal No. SC.1462/ 2019 and Cross-Appeal No. SC.147Y0/ 2019.”
However, governor Uzodinma in his preliminary objection dated February 6, urged the court to strike it out.
In addition, motion on notice brought pursuant to Section 6(6)(a) of the 1999 Uzodinma and his political platform, the All Progressive Congress (APC), predicated their objection on the grounds 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.
Besides, the objectors through their counsel, Damien Dodo (SAN) submitted that “having delivered its final decision on the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Appeal No. SC. 1462/2019 between Senator Hope Uzodinma & Anor v Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha & 2 Ors., the Supreme Court has become fuctus officio and divested of jurisdiction over the same subject matter.”
“Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules 2014 prohibits this Honourable 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 the 1st Respondent/Objector as Governor of Imo State, this Honourable Court lacks the jurisdiction to grant the prayer sought,” Uzodimma argued.
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.