Posted by Davidson Iriekpen | 4 August 2019 | 2,206 times
The attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to asked the Supreme Court to review its judgment delivered on May 24, 2019, which nullified the victory of all the party’s candidates at the 2019 general elections held in Zamfara State failed last Monday when the court struck out the application. A five-man panel led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour unanimously struck out the application on the grounds that the application was incompetent and lacking in merit.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour who delivered the ruling said the application was an invitation for it to sit on appeal over an issue it had already determined, and as such, the court does not have jurisdiction to hear to the case, having earlier settled the matter.
“By our rules, the application is incompetent, and it is hereby struck out,” he ruled.
The apex court had in a unanimous judgment of the five-man panel led by the g Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, on May 24, 2019, declared that APC never conducted primary elections, thus had no valid candidates for the general election.
It held that all the votes credited to the party and its candidates in the elections were wasted. The apex court then declared the first runners-up in the 2019 general elections in the state as the winners of all the offices earlier declared to have been won by the APC and its candidates.
The APC had been declared the winner of the governorship election, as well as the entire three senatorial seats, seven House of Representatives seats and the 24 House of Assembly seats, contested in the February 23 and March 11, 2019, general election in the state. With the governorship and deputy governorship seats which the party had won in the elections, the APC had won all the 36 elective offices available in the state.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision of May 24, leading APC chieftains, have been criticizing the judgment. Even renowned lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, has faulted the verdict. Thinking that it could take advantage of being in power to cajole the apex court, the party approached the court, contending that the judgment delivered earlier occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice to its candidates and the electorate in Zamfara State. It argued that the apex court had in its verdict, issued consequential orders that were not pleaded by some of its aggrieved members who were dissatisfied with the outcome of the primary elections it conducted in the state, prior to the 2019 general election. It concluded the court went beyond the reliefs sought by the respondents
During the judgment, the party was lucky to have got away without any reprimand. In the years gone by, such was a luxury, as the application would have been considered as an affront to the court, and attracted venom from the judges.
For instance, when former Governor Celestine Omehia of Rivers State, asked the apex court to review its judgment delivered on October 25, 2007, between him and the then governor, Rotimi Amaechi, it was not funny.
Omehia’s lawyer, James Esike, had argued that the judgment delivered on October 25, 2007, was a nullity on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction and competence to make the order not sought. For the lawyer’s effrontery, the justices on the panel descended on him.
First to fire the salvo was the then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, who was furious and could not imagine the lawyer’s guts. He did not only instantly dismiss the suit, but practically humiliated the counsel. The then CJN ordered him to sit down, saying he arguing nonsense.
“In my view, your action here is serious professional misconduct. We have given our decision two years ago and you are here asking us to review it. Even if we stay here till December, you will get nothing. At best, you can attract punitive damage. Whether right or wrong, that judgment stands. You are treading dangerous ground. We have no right to sit on appeal over our decision. Our judgment is not a nullity and you can go on and appeal to God. One thing I know is that God is not your client. If you persist trying that path, you won’t go home today. You don’t talk as if you are talking to some juniors in your chambers.
“This application is clearly misguided and ill-advised. But it affords us the opportunity to warn counsel to desist from bringing frivolous applications before us. If a court has the jurisdiction to hear a case, it follows that it has jurisdiction to be wrong or right in its judgment. This application is clearly an abuse of court process and it is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Katsina Alu held.
On his part, Justice George Oguntade stated that it was wrong for the litigants to decide to turn the court to “a musical chair” that could be swerved anyhow.
Oguntade had noted, “We are not sitting here as individuals; we are sitting as the final court of Nigeria. We don’t have any friend among you. We would leave here and retire to our villages but the Supreme Court and the law will live forever. What we did was the best way we can safeguard our democracy.”
For Justice Walter Onnoghen, the only forum open to Omehia was with God. “Even if we are wrong, our decision is final. You may appeal to God. You brought this application in contempt of court. You can go and appeal to God.”
Before then, Senator Andy Uba had twice dared the apex court to reverse its judgment. On the first occasion, Uba filed his application alongside INEC and the governorship candidate of the Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP) in 2007, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, seeking to set aside its earlier judgment delivered on June 14, 2007, which declared Mr. Peter Obi as the legal occupant of the Anambra State Government House.
For his temerity, the panel of justices presided over by Justice Iyorgher Katsina-Alu concluded that hearing the applications would amount to chasing shadows or “embarking on a wild goose chase.” While the court spared Uba, it, however, lambasted Okonkwo who alleged that Obi had bribed him with the sum of N10million to compromise himself at the Court of Appeal. It described Okonkwo as a blackmailer who goes about extorting money from politicians and declared that he was “not fit to even live in the jungle.”
Justice Kastina-Alu had this to say: This court has given its final judgment on this matter. The jurisdiction to reopen it is on a narrow compass. The argument that we should hear the matter on its merit is an invitation for us to embark on a wild goose chase. It is clear that the court cannot invoke its jurisdiction, I, therefore, strike out all the applications with no order as to cost.”
Justice George Oguntade who could not contain his consternation, said: “We want to maintain the highest standards of justice. The sum total of your position is that you accepted money to withdraw from the case but later turned around to blackmail the governor and say that you have been compromised and asking the court to set aside the judgment. I have a feeling that you are one of those exploiting politicians and making things difficult for them to rule this country.”
But Okonkwo who did not read the body language of the justices tried to interject. At this juncture, Oguntade shouted: “Shut up and listen. You are a common crook, I think very little of you. I don’t know what my colleagues think of you, but you would be very lucky if you can go home from here today (yesterday). I wonder where you derived the courage to come before us and ask us to set aside our judgment after you took a bribe to compromise yourself.”
Whereas Kastina-Alu preferred not to hit hard on Okonkwo, Justice Pius Olayiwola Aderemi was not that charitable as he said: “You (Okonkwo) are not fit for a decent society but the jungle among animals.”
Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad now the CJN, who was also visibly angry, said this of Okonkwo: “If I were alone, I will jail you; you are a common crook.”
The second time Uba attempted to push his luck again at the apex court was through his lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), who was then the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Of course, he received some serious bashings.
Before preparing the judgment, the then CJN, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, who presided over the case, fumed at the perceived effrontery of Uba and Daudu to bring the application before the court, which, according to him, was a mere attempt to rubbish the integrity of the judiciary in order to fulfill his gubernatorial ambition.
Justice Kutigi held: “This court held in its earlier judgment that the notice of appeal filed by Peter Obi at the Court of Appeal was valid. Yet, after our judgment, the applicant went straight back to the trial court to ask it to void the same notice of appeal which this court (Supreme Court) had declared valid; when he failed, he went back to the Court of Appeal and failed and has returned to us,” Kutigi observed.
Specifically referring to Daudu, Justice Kutigi thundered: “What kind of country is this where Senior Advocates of Nigeria are used to mess up the judiciary? We will not allow this kind of practice. This is wrong. The appellant has been shuttling from one court to another on a matter that the Supreme Court had already delivered judgment. If the Supreme Court makes a mistake, there are procedures of correcting the mistakes; not this way, and we will not allow it.”
Another instance where the apex court refused to review its verdict was in the case between Muhammadu Dingyadi of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and Aliyu Wamakko of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the Sokoto State governorship tussle.
Here, the court also made it clear that no amount of antics and trickery by counsel and their clients will ever make it revisit a case it has decided.
Again, in an application filed by Dr. Dickson Osuala, the counsel to DPP government candidate in Delta State, Chief Great Ogboru, against the election of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the PDP, the court used the opportunity also to send a very strong signal to lawyers that it would no longer tolerate abuse of court processes.
Justice Onnoghen who presided over the matter descended on Osuala and advised him not to ever come to the apex court with any application in respect of the case. He blamed the counsel for not properly guiding his client and embarking on a clear case of gross abuse of the court process. The judge told counsel to advise his client to take his case to heaven if he was not satisfied with the court’s ruling.
•This article originally appeared in today’s edition of THISDAY.
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