The Legal And Political Melodrama Unfolding From Rivers State
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
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.
Ikechukwu O. Odoemenam & Co.,