Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court, on Friday, refused to set-aside its judgement that sacked all candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, that won various positions in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections.
In a split decision of four-to-one, a five-man panel of Justices led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, declined the request on the grounds that it was an abuse of the judicial process.
It held that the apex court, by its Order 8 Rule 16, lacks the jurisdiction to tamper with its final judgement on any matter, except to correct clerical errors that arose from an accidental slip, or to vary a judgement or order, so as to give the intended meaning.
Justice Inyang Okoro who delivered the lead judgement, said the application that was filed by a faction of the APC led by the immediate past Governor of Zamfara State, Ahldulaziz Yari, was bound to fail.
“The finality of the Supreme Court is sealed. The application is a gross abuse of court process, it is frivolous. The application is hereby dismissed”, he ruled.
Aside declining to set aside the judgement, Justice Okoro awarded N2million cost against the applicants.
However, a member of the panel, Justice Chima Nweze, gave a dissenting opinion, insisting that the Supreme Court has the power to set aside any judgement it gave in error.
Justice Nweze, held that the Supreme Court made a wrong consequential order, when it directed that candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that got the second highest number of votes in the election, should be sworn in.
He said the Supreme Court was not “a Father Christmas” to give benefits to candidates that were not parties in an intra-party dispute that involved only members of the APC.
“This court has the power to overrule itself when its judgement was entered in error. It is better to admit any error than to abide in error”, Justice Nweze held.
Consequently, he disagreed with the CJN and three other Justices on the panel and declared the consequential order of the Supreme Court that handed PDP victory in Zamfara State, a nullity.
Remarkably, it was Justice Nweze that also gave a dissenting opinion against the judgement of the Supreme Court that sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP as governor of Imo State and handed victory to Hope Uzodinma of the APC.
The fresh application before the apex court was brought by a faction of the APC led by a former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari.
The APC counsel, Roberte Clarke,SAN, had urged the court to grant his clients’ application by setting aside the consequential order which gave victory to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates in the state.
Mr Clarke also urged the apex court to order the APC to conduct fresh primaries.
The senior lawyer argued that the apex court’s previous orders were made without jurisdiction. But the lawyer of the Kabiru Marafa-led APC faction in Zamfara, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, urged the apex court to dismiss the application and award huge costs against the applicants’ lawyer.
The Supreme Court had, on May 24, 2019 ruled that the APC did not conduct valid primaries in the build-up to the 2019 general elections in Zamfara.
The apex court validated the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, which ruled that no valid primaries were conducted by the APC in Zamfara State.
The court in a unanimous judgement by a five-member panel decided that a party that had no valid candidate cannot be said to have emerged winner of the elections. In an appeal brought by the APC, the apex court ruled against the appellant and ordered a fine of N10 million against the APC.
“Candidate other than the first appellant with the highest votes stands elected. A cost of N10 million is awarded against the appellant,” the court had ruled.
It then declared the first runners-up in the 2019 general elections in the state as winners of all the offices earlier declared to have been won by the APC and its candidates.
Dissatisfied with the apex court judgement, APC, through Mr Clarke, filed an application on June 17, 2019, asking the apex court to “review, amend, correct and/or set aside the consequential orders” contained in the May 24, 2019 judgment of the apex court