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“It is the right of every man, in parliament or outside it, in the press or on broadcast, to make fair comments, even frank comments, on matters of public concern. Those who comment can deal faithfully with everything that is done in a court of law “. – Lord Denning in R vs. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Exparte Blackburn (No. 2) (1968) 2 QB 150.
In a unanimous judgment in Lawsuit No: SC 1462/2019 (Senator Hope Uzodinma & Anor vs. Rt Hon. Emeka Ihedioha & 2 Others) issued on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court of Nigeria annulled the election of the former Governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, and ordered the immediate swearing in of Hope Uzodinma as validly elected Governor of Imo State. In light of Lord Denning’s earlier ruling, the Imo Progressive Lawyers Association (IPLF) found it necessary to ask some relevant questions about the Supreme Court ruling that dismissed Emeka Ihedioha.
First of all, we dare to state that both Ihedioha and Uzodinma are respected children of NDI IMO. This reflection responds specifically to the controversy generated by the Supreme Court ruling since it was issued. And most importantly, it is not lost on us that former Governor Ihedioha has approached the Supreme Court to review the sentence that overthrew him. The consequence is that the matter submitted to the Supreme Court remains subjugation. As lawyers, we are aware that commenting on cases sub judice they are generally considered inappropriate. However, we are compelled to ask the following questions after we have read the entire judgment of the supreme court.
Before delving into the facts of the matter, it is instructive to note that Section 179 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) deals with the votes that a candidate must obtain in an election for governor to be declared the winner. That section provides:
179 (2): A candidate for an election for the office of governor of a state shall be deemed to have been duly elected when there are two or more candidates:
- has the highest number of votes cast in elections; Y
- it has no less than a quarter of all votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all local government areas in the state.
Guided by the previous constitutional directives, we examine the indisputable facts in the recent ruling. The specific facts to consider are:
- The first appellant (Hope Uzodinma) filed a petition challenging the return of the first defendant (Emeka Ihedioha) for two reasons:
(a) The 1st Respondent was not validly elected by a majority of legitimate votes cast; Y
(b) The declaration and return of the 1st Defendant is invalid for breach of the Electoral Law. (See page 2 of the main judgment issued by KudiratMotonmoriOlatokunboKekere-Ekun JSC).
- Elections were held in 27 local government areas, 305 electoral districts, and 3,523 polling stations. The 3rd Respondent (INEC) canceled the election in 252 voting units, collated the results of 2,883 voting units and excluded the results of 388 voting units. The 1st. Defendant claimed that it obtained 213,695 votes from just the 388 excluded voting units. (See pages 2-3 of the Kekere-Ekun JSC trial).
- Paragraph 7, a, b, c, d, e, and f of the 3rd Respondent’s Reply (INEC) categorically denies the claims of the Appellant’s petition, especially the incorrect calculation of the alleged electoral results. (See pages 31-32 of the Kekere-Ekun JSC judgment).
Having established the law and the undisputed facts in the matter, we seek to raise the following questions about the sentence:
A. The appellant (Hope Uzodinma) stated that he obtained more than 213,000 votes from 388 voting units. However, during the trial, his star witness, PW54, a police officer, only presented the results of 366 polling stations instead of 388. The findings of the Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court also established that PW54 presented the results of 366 polling units versus 388 voting units. Doesn’t this discrepancy place the Supreme Court in its investigation?
B. The court is required to make a judicial note that the maximum number of voters per voting unit is 500 unless additional voting points are created. Again, 500 voters multiplied by 388 voting units cannot be more than 194,000.00 votes. In other words, 500 voters multiplied by 366 would also give only a possible maximum of just 183,000 votes. Aware of the certainty of deaths, voter transfers, and voter apathy, the chance for all 500 voters in each of the 388 (or 366) voting units to vote during an election is very remote, if not impossible. . So, whether by 366 or 388 voting units, the figures presented by the Appellant leave both mathematical and logical gaps that should put the supreme court in its investigation.
C. Interestingly, the Supreme Court declined to examine the cross-appeal of the first defendant (Emeka Ihedioha), holding that the main appeal had made it unnecessary to evaluate the cross-appeal. With all due respect to the higher court, perhaps, if the cross-appeal had been evaluated on its merit, some of the issues highlighted above would be addressed.
D. In light of A and B above, has the Supreme Court been satisfied that the conditions set forth in Section 179 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) have been fully met How would you justify the annulment of the election of Ihedioha and the declaration of Uzodinma as the true winner?
Justice, they say, is not a cloistered virtue. He must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and the respectful, even frank, comments of common men. “-” Lord Atkin in Ambard v. Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (1936) AC 322, 335. As ministers in the temple of justice and equally as stakeholders in the governance architecture of IOM,
The Imo Progressive Lawyers Association is prompted by Lord Atkin’s warning to raise the above legal questions. We present these concerns as amicus curia, fueled by deep concern that the doctrine of decisis look it would be threatened if these issues are not thoroughly reconsidered by the higher court.
In the final analysis, the Supreme Court is a court of politics, with its decisions binding not only on all lower courts, but on all other institutions and executive branches of government. In accordance with the full binding nature of the Supreme Court ruling, Hope Uzodinma was sworn in as governor. Therefore, our main concern is that justice prevail. Not only that, every state regime must derive its legitimacy from popular democracy and the solid application of the rule of law.
We end our reflections by referring to the following quotes from Lord Denning in his book ‘The Road to Justice’ (1955):
“In every court in England, I think you will find a newspaper reporter … He takes note of everything that happens and makes a fair and accurate report on it … He is, I sincerely believe, the watchdog of justice … The judge will ensure that the trial is conducted fairly and properly if he realizes that those present in court will notice any injustice or lack of correctness on his part and the press will be able to report it. He will be more eager to make a correct decision if he knows that his reasons must be justified in the court of public opinion. ”.
“When a judge sits on a case, he himself is being judged … If there is any misconduct on (his) part, any bias or prejudice, there is a reporter to keep an eye on it.“Lord Denning in his speech to the Supreme Court Journalists Association, as reported in the Times of December 3, 1964.
Signed Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Secretary General
Matthias Emeribe, Advertising Secretary,