Supreme Court Tuesday upturned the election of Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State. The apex court said Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) did not score majority of the lawful vote in the March 9 governorship election.
In his place, the apex court ordered that Hope Uzodinma candidate of the All Progressive Party (APC) be immediately sworn in as the duly elected governor of the state.
In a landmark judgment delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the apex court agreed that results in 388 polling units were unlawful excluded during the collation of the final governorship election result in Imo.
Justice Kekere-Ekun said with the addition of the result from the 388 polling units, the APC governorship candidate polled majority lawful vote and ought to have been declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Consequently, Justice Kekere-Ekun in the unanimous judgment voided and set aside the unlawful declaration of lhedioha as the winner of the 2019 governorship election.
The court ordered that the certificate of return wrongly issued to lhedioha be immediately withdrawn by INEC and a fresh one issued to Uzodinma as the elected governor.
Justice Kekere-Ekun in the judgment set aside the judgment of the state elections petition tribunal and that of the Court of Appeal, both of which had refused to recognised and accept the votes of the 388 polling units as being unlawfully excluded in the general collation.
Uzodinma and APC had in their appeal pleaded with the apex court to review the judgment of the two lower courts against them and restore their victory in the March 9 governorship election.
It was a total confusion in the state as the entrance gate to the Imo State Government House Owerri was immediately locked, as the news filtered into state. There is uneasy calm in Owerri and other parts of state, as Imolites are yet to come to terms with the Supreme Court judgment.
Emmanuel Eke, a civil servant, observed that the development would drag Imo backwards.
According to Eke, Ihedioha won the last election, which all Imolites acknowledged, “How can a candidate, who came fourth in an election be declared winner. Supreme Court needs to explain to Nigerians how they arrived at their decision.”
For Uwakwe Okoro, a retired civil servant, “This decision of the Supreme Court is not good for Imo people. They want to remove a governor that has remembered pensioners.”
Meanwhile, the PDP said the judgment was a very sad commentary on the nation’s democratic order.
The party through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement, “The party finds it difficult to understand how Senator Hope Uzodinma/APC, who came 4th in the March 9, 2019 governorship election, with just 96,458 votes, will suddenly, by the token of the judgment of the Supreme Court, defeat Governor Emeka Ihedioha/PDP that scored 276,404 votes.”
The PDP stated it was at lost and that most Nigerians do not understand the basis upon which the Supreme Court arrived at its decision.
“The party says it is lamentable that the destiny of the people of Imo state is being taken from the governor they chose and voted for and handed over to individuals and a political party that do not have their blessing and mandate and which they rejected at the election.
“The people of Imo state are now confronted with the challenge of having a government that they cannot identify with and which cannot connect with them, having not emanated from them.
“Moreover, all the gains, including the development and stability already achieved by the people-based government, under Governor Emeka Ihedioha/PDP administration in the state are now heavily jeopardised,” it said.
According to Femi Fani Kayode tweet, “Would someone please explain to me how a candidate that came 4th in the election suddenly became the winner? The Supreme Court has a lot of explaining to do! The people of Imo did not deserve this nonsense!”
From INEC results, PDP: Emeka Ihedioha 273,404; AA: Uche Nwosu 190,364; APGA: Ifeanyi Araraume 114,676; APC: Hope Uzodinma 96,458, and YPP: Ikedi Ohakim 527.
Furthermore, the candidate of Action Alliance (AA) and son in-law to former state governor, Rochas Okorocha, Tuesday, lost his bid to upturn the election of Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha.
This is as the Supreme Court struck out his appeal on the ground that he was not qualified in the first place to contest the election.
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad, the presiding Justice of a seven member panel sitting in the appeal in Abuja, struck out the appeal following an oral application for withdrawal by counsel to Nwosu and his party, AA, Solomon Umoh.
Nwosu and his party are among three candidates in the March 2019 governorship election in the state, seeking the nullification of Ihedioha’s election on allegations of malpractices and non-compliance with the electoral laws.
However, when the matter was called, counsel to the appeallants, Umoh informed the court that based on the decision of the apex court delivered on December 20, 2019, to the extent that Nwosu was not qualified to participate in the governorship election in the state, he advised them that the appeal be withdrawn.
Umoh accordingly moved to withdraw the appeal. It was not opposed by respondents in the appeal.
Accordingly, the presiding Justice struck it out, adding: “Appeal having withdrawn is hereby struck out.”
The Supreme Court, Tuesday, adjourned till next week appeals involving Bauchi, Benue and Plateau states governorship election.
Former governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abukakar is challenging the election of Bala Mohammed, while Emmanuel Jime, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is challenging the election of Samuel Ortom of the People’s Democratic Party (PDD) as Benue State governor.
the Supreme Court after he failed at both the tribunal and Appeal Court to upturn the election of Simon Lalong of Plateau State.
All the challengers had lost at the election petition tribunal and Appeal Court.
In adjourning the matters, the seven-man panel of Justices of Supreme Court said the adjournment would allow the panel time to concentrate on the cases that are time bond.
However, the court adjourned to January 20 for judgment in the suit challenging the election of Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
The apex it will also delivered judgment in that Sokoto state where the APC candidate is challenging governor Aminu Tambuwal election.
The apex court arrived at this decision after counsel to the parties adopted their briefs on Tuesday.
The 7-seven member panel of Justices of the apex court presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, fixed the Kano date after taking submissions of counsel in the appeal filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abbah Yusuf.
Yusuf is asking the apex court to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal which affirmed Ganduje as duly elected governor of Kano State.
The Court of Appeal had on Nov. 22 last year upheld the judgment of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which upheld the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s) declaration of Ganduje as winner of the March 9 governorship election in Kano State.
In arguing the appeal, Yusuf’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo urged the court to nullify the election of Ganduje on the grounds that his victory was based on an illegal bye-election conducted in 207 polling units.
Awomolo argued that the State Returning Officer, who had conducted the bye-election in the affected polling units, lacked the legal powers to do so.
He added that the State Returning Officer after declaring the entire results of election in the 44 local government areas of Kano State was wrong to have gone ahead to cancel election in 207 polling units and conducted a bye-election thereafter.
Awomolo therefore urged the court to nullify the purported bye election conducted on March 23 in the 207 polling units and declare his client winner based on the results declared by the State Returning Officer on March 11, 2019.
However, the respondents in their various submissions urged the court to dismiss the appeal on grounds that the State Returning Officer did not cancel election of 207 polling units as claimed by the appeallants.
Counsel to INEC, Ahmed Raji (SAN) in his submissions told the apex court that the appellants both at the tribunal and Court of Appeal failed to prove that votes were cancelled in 207 wards
According to Raji, record only showed the inability of the State Returning Officer to collate results of the affected polling units which was occasioned by the action of the appeallants own witness, who in his evidence admitted carting away with ballot boxes of Galma wards belonging to the 207 polling units.
Both lawyers to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Ganduje aligned themselves with Raji and urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking merit.
Justice Muhammad thereafter fixed January 20, 2020, for judgment.
Felix Omohomhion, Solomon Ayado, Abuja, & Godfrey Ofurum, Owerri