The Legal And Political Melodrama Unfolding From Rivers State

By Ikechukwu Ozoemena

One of the most important pronouncements was, made on 27th January 2016 when the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the suit by Gov. Nyesom Wike V. APC, INEC and 0thers confirmed the electoral mandate of the embattled governor. In the lead judgment read by Kekere-Ekun JSC, the reason for the confirmation would be made known on February 12, 2016.

However, it is obvious from legal minds that the APC’s (Dakuku

Peterside) submission that there was no election on 11th April 2015

held in Rivers State failed - a submission that won the hearts of the

Tribunal as well as Court of Appeal.
As Rivers State went agog over the cheering judgment, it was a sober

engagement in Lokoja where Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the circumstantial

governor of Kogi State was being sworn in. Earlier the Rivers State

election tribunal and the Court of Appeal had ordered a re-run of the

elections within 90 days. It was APC's defence and belief that the

non-use of card readers contravened the Electoral Act and therefore

nullified the entire process. But earlier Supreme Court had decided

in the case of Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode against his

opponent pharmacist Jimi Agbaje of PDP that such incident could not

render the entire process a nullity.
Before the Supreme Court judgment charged the atmosphere in Rivers

State, the acting Chief Judge since June 2015, Justice Daisy Okocha

had been confirmed the substantive Chief Judge (CJ). The National

Judicial Council (NJC) had on 22nd July, 2015 recommended her

appointment as CJ, after the Court of Appeal over-ruled a Federal High

Court on 23rd December, 2015 on the point that the Governor was not

bound to comply with NJC’s recommendation.
With all these complex legal entanglements it is indeed a herculean

time for the Supreme Court which had to resolve the unprecedented

number of inconclusive elections spotted across the nation, from

Taraba, Bayelsa, Kogi, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Abia. Although in a

totally different forum, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun’s comment in a

paper she delivered turned out aptly in articulating the functions of

the Supreme Court in this trying times. Apart from shaping judicial

policy which she considers as one of the important functions, she

said: “No doubt for today’s dispensation of justice in this era of

information technology the Court must carry out its functions of

safeguarding the constitution, clarifying the law, promoting the rule

of law, determining legal issues of national importance and setting

judicial precedence among others at a considerably faster pace”. The

comment by the eminent jurist summed up the enormity of the Supreme

Court’s tasks.
The frequent legal tussle over election matters from the Tribunal to

the Supreme Court has shown that 180 days deadline set aside for the

conclusion of appeals by s. 285 (6) of the 1999 Constitution is

neither adequate nor realistic. The tragedy of limiting election

appeals to the Court of Appeal only would have inflicted untold

injustices in the cases of Governor Darius Ishiaku of Taraba State.

Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State,

Gov. Emmanuel Udom of Akwa-Ibom State. And that is the angle

proponents of 180 days without more have failed to address.

However, one of the alterations of the 1999 Constitution that came

into force in 2010 was to confer appellate jurisdiction on the Supreme

Court over gubernatorial election disputes vide s. 233 (2) (e)

But it is never a license for the appeal court to interfere with the

decision of the lower court, because s.294 (2) of the Constitution

compels the courts to deliver judgment simultaneously with reasons

thereof. Whereas s.285 (8), a final Appeal Court seised of the power

and rare privilege of delivering judgment and later prefer reasons for

doing so as has been the case of Gov. Nyesom Wike.
The conclusion to be driven from these scenarios seem to be that new

procedures introduced by erstwhile INEC boss, Prof. Jega has produced

unprecedented incidents of inconclusive elections. They would have

been swept under the carpet by previous electoral procedures and

without the 2010 constitutional amendments that conferred appellate

jurisdiction to the Supreme Court on gubernatorial disputes Gov.

Darius Ishiaku, Gov Nyesom Wike, Gov Okezie Ikpeazu and future

petitioners would have suffered irremediable injustices.

Iyke Ozoemena
Ikechukwu O. Odoemenam & Co.,
Corporate Attorneys/Consultants

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