Following the Imo State gubernatorial election held on the 9th day of March, 2019 declaring Emeka Ihedioha of People’ Democratic Party (PDP) as the duly elected Governor, Hope Uzodinma of All Progressives Congress (APC) filed a Petition challenging the unlawful exclusion of votes from 388 polling centers. The results from the cancelled polling units amounted to 213, 295 votes. These omitted polling centers included but are not limited to Ngor Okpala, Oguta, Obowo, Ikeduru, Oru East, Oru West, Oguta, Ohaji, Egberia.
The 14th day of January saw to the conclusion of the petition. The Court of Appeal had given judgment in favour of Emeka Ihedioha except for one of the justices who had penned down a 62 pages dissenting judgment. Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun had said:
“There is merit in this appeal, it is allowed. Majority judgment of the lower court affirming the election of the 2nd Respondent is hereby set aside”.
The Supreme court had said the exclusion of votes from the 388 polling centers that gave Emeka Ihedioha victory was illegal and undemocratic. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had excluded the above votes from the total collated votes on the basis that the votes were derived from unfounded sources. It remains a concern why INEC failed to call evidence to challenge the result sheet that included votes from 388 polling units presented by Sola Oke (SAN), counsel to Hope Uzodinma and which was later admitted in evidence. While it may not be right to say that INEC accepted the result presented, the failure to challenge same by producing a witness who is an expert to provide the court with reasons for the exclusion, may make it right to say they conceded as it is a matter of law that evidence not challenged is deemed admitted. However, the Supreme court has said that once an election has been conducted with votes cast and counted, the only authority that can annul same is the Election Tribunal and as such, there exists no justification for INEC to have excluded the votes cast in the 388 polling units. It was and probably still remains the opinion of popular Human Rights activist, Femi Falana in his interview last week with popular T.V. show, “YOUR VIEW”, that for justice to be said to have been done, INEC on sensing irregularities in the election, ought to have cancelled the election and ordered for a fresh one; not cancelling votes already cast and counted. I totally agree with the position of the learned silk.
Following the judgment, opinions from the electorates have dazzled the air ever since and has had several quarters calling for the Supreme Court to review her decision. However, by virtue of section 285(7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended), the Supreme court no longer has the jurisdiction to entertain any application relating to Imo State Governorship election because it has passed the 60 days provided for such in our Constitution. This means that the Supreme court cannot entertain any application on a case it has decided on or reversed.
While we wait for the reasoning of the court in the judgment delivered(only the Supreme court can deliver a judgment and give reasons later), it is perhaps a concern that decisions on elections have slowly been taken over by the courts in the place of the electorates(people) who by the Constitution have the power to determine who rules them.
“…. We are not final because we are infallible. We are infallible because we are final…”This is the popular slogan of the court to highlight her supremacy. Should we by this expect a review of her decision? We wait to see��.
Article by Blessing Okwori (Esq.) email@example.com 07087777230