There is palpable anxiety and tension as the Supreme Court of Nigeria will today Tuesday, 18th February, re-visit its judgment on the outcome of the 2019 Imo State governorship election.
It will be recalled as earlier reported by this online medium that the Supreme Court on January 15, sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Imo State Governor and ordered that Hope Uzodinma of the All progressives Congress (APC), be installed as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the State.
Uzodinma has since been sworn in as the executive governor of Imo State following the court order.
However, Ihedioha and the PDP vehemently disagreed with the judgment of the apex court and are seeking that the court upturns its earlier judgment on the Imo State governorship election.
Emeka Ihedioha had been declared the winner of the March 19 governorship election in Imo State with 273,404 votes. In second position was Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance who polled a total of 190,364 votes.
The candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeanyi Ararume came third with 114, 676 votes while Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) came a distant fourth with 96,458 votes.
Uzodinma, however, approached the election tribunal with claims that his results in some polling units were illegally cancelled. The tribunal, as well as the appeal court, threw out his claims for lack of merit.
Not deterred, Uzodinma and his party took their case to the Supreme Court and the apex court ruled in their favour on January 15, 2020, nullifying the election victory of Ihedioha and the PDP.
A seven-man panel of the supreme court agreed with Ihedioha that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final governorship election result in Imo State.
The Court, therefore, ruled that with the results from the 388 polling units added, Mr Uzodinma polled a majority of the lawful votes and ought to have been declared the winner of the election by the Nation’s electoral umpire – the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
However, the court failed to disclose details of the new votes scored by each of the candidates after the addition of the results from the 388 polling units, a decision that caused several mixed reactions from Nigerians.
The Collation Officer for the election, Prof. B.C. Ozunda, had announced a total number of registered voters in Imo to be: 2,037,569.
He broke it down to include 585,741 accredited voters and 542,777 votes were cast. Valid votes were 511,586 and rejected votes were 31,191.
Falana Reacts: Supreme court can’t hear Ihedioha’s case if 6 judges withdraw
Reacting on the matter, Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the supreme court cannot sit to hear the application by Emeka Ihedioha for the review of its judgment on Imo governorship election if seven justices recuse themselves from the case.
In a letter signed by Uche Secondus, the national chairman, and Umar Ibrahim Tsauri, national secretary, dated February 14, 2020, and seen by TheCable, the party demanded that a new panel be set up to hear Ihedioha’s application.
The party said it feared “likelihood of bias” and “denial of right to fair hearing”.
The other justices the party asked to recuse themselves along with Mohammed are: Nwah Sylvester Ngwuta, Olukayode Ariwola, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amina Adamu Augie, and Uwani Musa Abba Aji.
But Falana told TheCable that there are currently 11 justices of the apex court and that if seven of them recuse themselves from the case, the court would not be able to form a quorum to hear the matter.
”The PDP has asked CJN Mohammad Tanko as well as Justices Nwah Sylvester Ngwuta, Olukayode Ariwola, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amina Adamu Augie, and Uwani Musa Abba Aji to recuse themselves from the application for the review of the judgment of the court in the Imo governorship case,” he said.
”If the application is granted the court may not be able to hear the application again. In other words, if 6 out of the remaining 11 Justices of the Court recuse themselves the Court will not be able to form another quorum of 7 Justices to hear the constitutional matter. By the time the Court is reconstituted by the federal government the time for the review of the judgment would have long expired.”
The lawyer cited a similar application filed by the late MKO Abiola against nine justices out of the 16 members of the court in 1995.
He said as the nine justices recused themselves from hearing the case, the appeal for the bail of Abiola was never heard because the Abacha junta refused to reconstitute the court.
”See Chief MKO Abiola v Federal Republic of Nigeria (1995) LPELR-SC.274/1994,” he added.
Today, the Supreme Court has two options before it – to either upturn or uphold its decision.