The Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, has asked the Supreme Court to strike out an application seeking to review its judgment on Imo governorship election that declared him the winner of March 9 election.
Emeka Ihedioha, who is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had claimed that Mr Uzodinma obtained the judgment fraudulently.
Mr Ihedioha’s claims are contained in an application which he filed on February 5, at the Supreme Court.
The apex court had on January 14, nullified the governorship position held by Mr Ihedioha. He was earlier declared the winner by the electoral umpire, INEC, as the governor of Imo State.
The apex court, however, declared Mr Uzodinma as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state.
In the unanimous judgment of the seven-member panel, read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the apex court agreed that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final governorship election result in Imo State.
Justice Kekere-Ekun said 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 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The judge did not provide the details of the new votes scored by each of the candidates after the addition of the results from the 388 polling units.
Consequently, she voided and set aside the declaration of Mr lhedioha as the winner of the 2019 governorship election in the South-East state.
The court ordered that the certificate of return issued to Mr lhedioha be immediately withdrawn by INEC and a fresh one issued to Mr Uzodinma as the elected governor of the state.
But, in a 19-paragraph affidavit filed in opposition to Mr Ihedioha’s application, Mr Uzodinma and the All Progressive Congress (APC) said the 60 days allowed for the apex court by the constitution has since elapsed.
“The undisputed facts relating to the respondents/applicants’ motion hereinafter referred to as “the motion” are to the effect that the judgment of the Court of Appeal was delivered on 21st September 2019, while the one sought to be set aside, was delivered on 14th January 2020. Clearly, the 60 days allowed by Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for this Hon. Court to hear and determine an appeal from the Court of Appeal in an election matter, lapsed on January 17, 2020. The motion to set aside was filed on February 5, 2020, 19 days after the time allowed by the Constitution.
“It is now a settled law that the 60 days’ time limit to determine and conclude litigation on election matters is sacrosanct and cannot be extended by any guise,” they stated, in the counter-affidavit filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Damian Dodo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
In the counter-affidavit deposed to by Mathew Mola, the two respondents said the Supreme Court is not in the habit of sitting on appeal over its own judgment as being demanded by Mr Ihedioha.
The deponent averred that by the rule of the apex court, the court is prohibited from reviewing its own judgment once delivered except to correct clerical mistakes or accidental slips.
“As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court jealously guides its process against abuse by litigants,” he said, “and does not indulge in academic exercise or answer by hypothetical questions.”
He said contrary to the claim of Mr Ihedioha in his application, the scores of all the candidates in the election as declared by INEC, were clearly set out.
The deponent added that a petitioner, whose votes were excluded from the declared results, is entitled to compute the votes excluded in the presentation of his case.
The counter-affidavit denied the allegation that Mr Uzodinma admitted that he allocated votes to himself or that the votes in the 388 polling units were in excess of the registered voters.
“I know as a fact that the issue of a total number of votes cast exceeding the total number of accredited voters did not arise from the petition or the appeal considered and determined by the Supreme Court.
“I also know that the issue of the votes of 68 other candidates not been reflected was never raised by Ihedioha in the appeal that led to the judgment now being challenged,” he added.
The deponent noted that Mr Uzodinma and APC did not mislead the Supreme Court to perpetrate any fraud in the appeal that brought them to power, describing Mr Ihedioha’s allegations as wild and baseless.
The governor and his party, in their joint preliminary objection, asked the apex court to strike out the request for being baseless and unwarranted.
They argued that the application by Mr Ihedioha constitutes a gross abuse of court process, an exercise in futility and an attempt to force the apex court to sit on appeal in its own judgment.
According to the respondents, by virtue of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Supreme Court could no longer decide on the matter has become statute-barred.
Meanwhile, the apex court will on February 18, consider the merit or otherwise of Mr Ihedioha’s application.