UPDATED: Supreme Court Dismisses Iheodiha’s Application For Review
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday, in a dissent judgment refused to review its January 14 verdict sacking Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Imo State.

In a six-to-one judgement, the apex Court dismissed Ihedioha’s application for a review saying its earlier decision was final

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Muhammad Tanko led five other members of the seven-member panel to dismiss the application while Justice Centus Chima Nweze held a contrary view.

In the lead judgment, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, held that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to review its judgment once it has been delivered and that there was no law mandating the court to reverse itself or review its judgment.

But in his dissenting opinion, Justice Nweze held that the court can change its mind on any decision, having done so in the past.

Earlier, lawyer to Ihedioha, Kanu Agabi (SAN), had prayed the court to set aside its January 14 judgment and restore the judgement of the Court of Appeal, which it voided.

Agabi argued that the court was misled into giving the judgment saying it was better for the court to correct the error by reviewing the judgment rather than retaining the error for the future.

Lawyer to Uzodinma, whom the apex court installed as governor of Imo State with its January 14 verdict, Damian Dodo (San) however prayed the court to retain its judgment on the grounds that there was no error that required being corrected.

In the lead judgment, Justice Ariwoola stated that “there is no doubt that the judgment of this court, being sought to be set aside for being a nullity was delivered on the 14th of January 2020. The judgment is a final judgment of the court as prescribed in Section 235 of the Constitution.

“The appeal was adjudged meritorious and was allowed, and the judgment of the lower court (the Court of Appeal), which affirmed the judgment of the Governorship Election Tribunal was set aside.

“Generally, by the provision of the Rules of this court, it shall not review any judgment once delivered by it save to correct any clerical mistake or some errors arising from any accidental slip of omission, or to vary the judgment or order so as to give effect to its meaning or intention.

“A judgment or order shall not be varied when it correctly represents what the court decided nor shall the operative and supportive part of it be varied and a different form substituted, see Order 8 Rule 16 of the Rules of this court.

“The general law is that the court has no power to alter or vary a judgment or order after delivery, except; (a) so far as it is necessary to correct errors in expressing the intention of the court or (b) to correct clerical mistakes or some errors arising from accidental slip or omission, that is the slip rule; or (c) an order which is a nullity owing to failure to comply with an essential provision, such as the service of process, can be set aside by the court which made the order, and a judgment or an order made against a party in default (may also be set aside).

“It is settled law that this court has no power to change or alter its own judgment or sits as an Appeal Court over its own judgment.

“There is no doubt that the court has inherent powers in respect of matters within its jurisdiction. It certainly has no inherent power to assume jurisdiction in respect of the matter not within its jurisdiction.

“It is clear from the tone and the wording of the instant application that what is being sought is asking the court to sit over its own judgment already delivered and executed. That is certainly beyond the competence of this court.

“It is not disputable that the jurisdiction of the court is derived from the Constitution and an Act of the National Assembly. There is no constitutional provision for the review of the judgement of the Supreme Court by itself. And, therefore, once it delivers its final judgment, the Supreme Court, subject, of course, to the slip rule principle, it become functus officio in respect thereof.”

Justice Ariwoola, made reference to the Court’s decision on February 26 in a similar application in relation to its judgement on February 13 in the Bayelsa governorship dispute.

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He noted that the Supreme Court, in rejecting the application, relied on the provision of Order 8 Rule 16 of the court’s Rules, which prohibits a review of the apex court’s judgment.

Justice Ariwoola held that the implication of the Order 8 Rule 16 of the court’s Rules is that the court “does not have the competence and lacks the required jurisdiction to review its own judgment, except, as earlier stated, in the circumstances set out in the Rules of this court.”

He noted that the court has held in cases before now that “the finality of the Supreme Court is entrenched in Constitution. Therefore, once the decision of the court is clear, it is final in the sense that the thrust of the ratio decided is manifest in it.

“Inherent powers of the court can only be invoked if there is a missing link in the main body of the judgment. And some steps must be taken to fill in the gap or ambiguity so that the justice of the issue will be clear.

“That is why this court can sometimes be called upon to dot the Is and fill in the gaps in the slip apparent in the judgment. Otherwise, the court cannot, under any guise or so called inherent powers, alter or has to clear an unambiguous judgment once given.

Justice Ariwoola relied on another earlier judgment of the court where it was held that among others, that the finality of the decision of the Supreme Court in civil proceedings is absolute unless specifically set aside by a later legislation.

He added: “The justices that man the court are of course fallible, but their judgments are, as the Constitution intends, infallible.

“Therefore, any ingenious attempt by counsel to set aside or circumvent the decision of the Supreme Court, will be met with stiff resistance.

“Without any further ado, this application is considered lacking in merit and is liable to be dismissed.

“To ask us to set aside the judgment of this court delivered on the 14th of January 2020 is an invitation to ask us to sit on appeal over our own judgment. We cannot do so.

“To set aside the judgement in this instant circumstance, is to open the floodgate for applications by parties to review the judgments of this court. To do that will, to say the list, bring the court to disrepute and ridicule.

“In the circumstance, this application is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Ariwoola said.

In his dissenting ruling, Nweze however, held that there were a number of reasons for the court to have granted the review sought by Ihedioha.

He agreed with Ihedioha’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN) that the Supreme Court was without the necessary jurisdiction when it sat and considered the appeal on which its January 14th judgment was given.

He held that the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which struck out Uzodinma’s petition at the tribunal, for being incompetent, was still subsisting because it raised issue of jurisdiction which the Supreme Court did not resolve in its judgment.

Making reference to the court’s past decisions in Adegoke Motors and Adesanya, Johnson and Lawanson, among others, Justice Nweze disagreed with the majority ruling that the decision of the Supreme Court cannot be set aside.

“This court has the power to overrule itself and has done so in the past,” Justice Nweze said.

He also held that it was wrong for the court to have awarded electoral victory to Uzodinma, who had argued that the election was a nullity on grounds of non-compliance.

Furthermore, Justice Nweze faulted the results Uzodinma claimed at the tribunal and wondered why he omitted to present the scores of the other candidates in the election.

He added: “Having thus failed, neglected or omitted to bring the scores of other candidates in the election, this court wrongly declared him as duly elected.”

Justice Nweze also expressed the view that the Supreme Court should not have upheld the results claimed by Uzodinma because he had, while testifying at the tribunal, admitted the results was more than the number of accredited voters, and that he did the compilation of the results on his own.

According to him, Uzodinma misled the court to accept the “ubiquitous and fake results” which he admitted that he complied on his own.

Justice Nweze noted that, in accepting the results claimed by Uzodinma, the court was misled into coming out with total votes in excess of the total number of accredited voters, which was 823,743.

He also held that the court was misled in declaring Uzodinma winner when it did not find that the APC candidate met the constitutional requirement to be so declared.

Justice Nweze ‎upheld the application by Ihedioha and granted the reliefs contained, including setting aside the Supreme Court Judgment.

The other members of the panel who agreed with the lead ruling are Justices Tanko ( CJN), Sylvester Ngwuta, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amina Augie and Uwani Abba-Aji.