From the sack of Emeka Ihedioha as duly elected governor of Imo state to the removal of David Lyon as Bayelsa governor, the judiciary, in 2020, delivered unexpected decisions that would hold a major place in Nigeria’s history for years to come.
On January 14, 2020, a seven-member panel of the supreme court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and issue a fresh one to Hope Uzodimma, who the court declared as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election.
Uzodimma had argued that INEC wrongfully excluded the results of 388 polling units where he reportedly garnered high votes.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the apex court, Ihedioha had filed an application asking the same court to review its decision and set it aside.
In the judgment delivered on March 3, 2020, six out of the seven-member panel of the apex court led by Ibrahim Muhammad, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), dismissed Ihedioha’s review application.
“The finality of the supreme court is entrenched in the constitution. Inherent powers can only be evoked if there is a missing link and that is why sometimes the court could be called upon to dot the i and cross the t,” said Olukayode Ariola, who read the majority judgement.
“The finality of the supreme court in civil cases is final.”
However, Chima Nweze, one of the judges, disagreed with the ruling.
In his dissenting judgment, Nweze asked the court to set aside the January 14 judgment that removed Ihedioha from office, describing it as a nullity and in bad faith.
He held that Uzodimma misled the court into an unjust conclusion with the unverified votes in 388 polling units.
“This decision of the supreme court will continue to haunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come,” he said.
“In my intimate reading of the January 14 judgment, the substance of Ihedioha’s matter was 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. This court has a duty of redeeming its image. I am of the view that this application should succeed.
“I hereby make an order setting aside the decision of this court made on January 14 and that the certificate of return issued to the appellant be returned to INEC. I also make an order restoring the respondents as winner of the March 9 governorship election.”
Twenty-one months after the supreme court ruling, it appears the dust is yet to settle in Imo, with accusations and counter accusations between Rochas Okorocha, immediate past governor of the state, and Uzodimma, his successor.
Things took a different turn on Sunday with the arrest of Uche Nwosu, candidate of the Action Alliance (AA) and son-in-law of Okorocha, who was picked up by security operatives in a church.
Prior to the arrest, Okorocha and Uzodimma — both members of the APC — have been at loggerheads, leading to court issues and sealing off of properties linked to the former.
Although the circumstances that led to Nwosu’s arrest are relatively unclear, Okorocha has accused Uzodimma of ordering the raid.
The AA candidate, who was released hours after he was taken into custody, has also insisted that he wasn’t invited prior to the arrest.
Meanwhile, with the concerns raised on the verdict on the Imo governorship election, President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to decline assent to the electoral bill, which recommends electronic transmission of election results, may need a proper review to improve Nigeria’s voting system.
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