In a split decision of six-to-one, the Supreme Court, yesterday, refused to set aside its January 14 judgment that sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and instal Hope Uzodinma as governor of Imo State.
It was wild celebration at the Government House, as party faithful trooped in to felicitate with the governor.
Governor Uzodinma who was attending a state function when the news was delivered danced with his supporters, who displayed various fireworks at the streets.
Justice Olukayode Ariwoola who read the majority verdict held the application was an invitation for the apex court to sit on appeal over its final judgment in violation of the Constitution.
“This application is considered lacking in merit and liable to be dismissed. To ask us to set aside the judgment of the court delivered on January 14 2020, is an invitation to ask us to sit on appeal against our own judgement. We cannot do so. To set aside our judgment in this instance is to open the floodgate to other parties to review the judgment of this court.
“To do that, is to say the least, bring the court into disrepute and ridicule. In the circumstance, this application is accordingly dismissed. Even though cost follow event, parties are to bear their own cost.”
Those who agreed with his reasoning were the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amina Augie and Mary Abba-Aji.
But in his dissenting ruling, Justice Chima Nweze said Uzodinma misled the court in arriving at the judgment which removed Ihedioha from office after about 10 months.
He said there was no evidence placed before the court that Governor Uzodinma satisfied the required spread to have been declared winner of the poll.
He said Uzodinma failed to give evidence of how he won the election and held that the votes which was used to declare him winner was in excess of the accredited votes for the election.
He held that Uzodinma mischievously misled the court into unjust conclusion with the unverified votes credited to himself in the disputed 388 polling units.
“In my intimate reading of the January 14 judgment, the meat and substance of Ihedioha’s matter were lost to time frame. This Court once set aside its own earlier judgment and therefore cannot use time frame to extinguish the right of any person. This Court has powers to overrule itself and can revisit any decision not in accordance with justice,” he said.
Notwithstanding Justice Nweze’s position, Governor Uzodinma said it was final victory from God to ensure uninterrupted flow of prosperity to all lmo people.
He called on Ihedioha to join him in moving the state forward saying what was more important was making the state great.
He said he has come with open mind to serve the people and expressed belief that God would see him through in his administration to develop the state.
However, PDP alleged that by the victory, the six apex court justices have endorsed electoral fraud.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said inspite of the verdict, Justice Nweze’s minority judgment presented a glimpse of hope for the country’s judiciary.
“Our party abides completely by every word of the judgment of Justice Nweze as treated facts, which are truly sacred.
“Justice Nweze’s pronouncement, which went straight into the substance of our application represents a universal view about the travesty of justice that occurred in the Imo state governorship election judgment.
“It is indeed unfortunate that the Supreme Court had the wholesome opportunity to redeem itself and correct its errors, but choose to hide behind technicality to justify and endorse an electoral fraud.
“What Nigerians expected of the Supreme Court, since the error in its earlier judgment had been fully established, was to summon the courage to affirm its infallibility by correcting the errors and handing over victory to the rightful winner. Sadly, it failed to do so.”
But in his reaction, APC described the dismissal of the application as refreshing.
National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, who was on a private visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, told State House Correspondents the decision was predictable.
“We know that Ihedioha did not have the required number and that is a fact that nobody has ever disputed. How anybody thought he can impose someone who did not meet the spread is only known to PDP. It’s because they specialise in rigging and they see rigging as their birthright that they could have the guts to be protesting in front of foreign embassies as if Nigeria is a colony under the supervision of some foreign powers.
“So I think what the Supreme Court has done today is just o reaffirm that they are Supreme and whatever they did the last time was on the basis of what was before them. They did not make mistakes, there are no gaps, no ambiguity and therefore there was no basis to re-approach them to seat on the appeal in their own judgement. I think they are just being consistent with the position they took in previous cases… We are happy and we thank God that the whole litigation process has come to an end.
• IPOB, ex-speaker differ
Amidst subdued mood in the state following the judgment, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) expressed sadness and described the judges action as absolute corruption.
In a statement by Emma Powerful, IPOB said: “It defies logic that unaccounted and untraceable result sheets were admitted by the court. The world will now understand how corrupt Nigerian judiciary really is.”
But former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Godfrey Dikeocha hailed it as “justice according to Law” and not sentiment. He maintained that a contrary judgment would have amounted to an assault on the constitution and the law.
“It’s victory for the rule of law, integrity of the Supreme Court has been upheld by this judgement,” Dikeocha said.