BY yesterday evening, Emeka Ihedioha ceased to be the legitimate Governor of Imo State. This was after the Supreme Court reversed the cancellation of results from 388 polling units in Imo State governorship election and declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Hope Uzodinma, as winner of the poll.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the seven-man panel upheld the appeal filed by Uzodinma on the ground that Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) did not score the majority of the lawful votes in the election.
The apex court, therefore, ordered that Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) be sworn in immediately as the duly elected governor of Imo State.
The court agreed that results from 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final results in the state.
Justice Kekere-Ekun noted that with the result from the 388 polling units, the APC governorship candidate polled the majority of the lawful votes and ought to have been declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Consequently, the court ordered that the certificate of return, which was wrongly issued to lhedioha of the PDP, be immediately withdrawn by INEC, and a fresh one issued to Uzodinma.
By so doing, the court set aside the verdicts of the Imo State Electric Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal both of which had upheld the election of Ihedioha by dismissing the petition filed by Uzodinma.
The court below had refused to recognize and accept the votes from the 388 polling units as being unlawfully excluded in the general collation.
Uzodinma and APC had in their appeal prayed the apex court to review the judgment of the two lower courts against them and restore their victory in the election. The two appellants maintained that the unlawful exclusion of votes from 388 polling units denied them victory in the election.
Meanwhile, another PDP governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC, Kano State will know their fate on Monday as judgment on their appeals would be delivered.
The journey to Uzodinma’s victory began at the Imo State Electoral Petition Tribunal, where his petition was dismissed for lacking in merit. Not satisfied, he approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which upheld the verdict of the lower court.
The hopeful Hope, not daunted by his failures, moved to the Supreme Court to register his grievance. The matter was originally scheduled for Monday but the court arose abruptly as a member of the panel, Justice John Inyang Okoro, was announced to be sick.
The shift in the date of judgment created anxiety among the political parties, as people read different meanings to it.
The seven outstanding governorship appeals then before the apex court included those against Tambuwal; Ihedioha; Abdullah Ganduje (Kano); Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa); Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); Simon Lalong (Plateau); and Samuel Ortom (Benue).
But with the adjournment of those of Plateau, Adamawa, Bauch, Benue and Adamawa states, the court has appeals from only two states to rule on.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, who led the seven-man panel, made the announcement after listening to the written addresses of parties to the appeals.
Lamenting the heavy workload confronting the apex court, the CJN expressed optimism that judgment would be delivered on January 20 in the matter concerning Kano State.
Some lawyers and journalists were denied access into the Supreme Court room at the resumption of the hearing following a heavy crowd trooping into the premises.
There was also heavy security presence on the premises and roads leading to the apex court.
Dozens of supporters of various political parties, particularly the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were also denied access onto the court premises as security personnel insisted that those with no serious business in the court would not be granted access.
When the Kano State’s case was called, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), counsel to the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Abba Yusuf, in adopting his written address and briefs, had asked the court to allow the appeal and grant all the appellant’s prayers.
Awomolo argued that the returning officer cancelled results in 207 polling units, declared the election inconclusive and rescheduled another poll for March 23, 2019.
He argued that the cancellation made by the returning officer in the 207 polling units, after announcing the entire results in the state, was ultra vires, and that his declaration of the election as inconclusive was also illegal.
But the counsel to Ganduje, M. Duru, who said that the respondents had addressed all the issues raised in their brief of argument, however, argued that exhibit P1, upon which the appellant based his argument, did not contain the results of all the 44 local governments that make up Kano State, contrary to his assertion.
According to Duru, the Form EC8D does not contain the results of the 207 polling units and, therefore, there was absolutely no way the returning officer could have declared a winner out of such result.
He, therefore, urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal with substantial cost of N5 million against the appellant.
The second appeal to be treated was that of Imo State. The court had earlier dismissed the appeal filed by Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA). Nwosu was challenging the victory of Ihedioha.
The apex court based its decision on the withdrawal of appeal motion filed by Nwosu’s lawyer, Solomon Umoh (SAN).
Umoh had told the court that his client’s decision to withdraw the appeal was based on the fact that his candidacy for the governorship election had been invalidated by the apex court.
He added that it will “amount to waste of time to continue with the appeal.”
In a unanimous judgment, the seven-man panel led by the CJN) consequently dismissed the appeal
This brought some degree of hope to the camp of Ihedioha until the final verdict was given.
– Jan. 15, 2020 @ 08:19 GMT |