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Opinion

Ihedioha: Why Supreme Court May Not Reverse Judgment

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Emeka Ihedioha

By Onyedika Agbedo

The January 14, 2020 judgment of the Supreme Court that nullified the election of Chief Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor and declared senator Hope Uzodinma as the winner of March 19, 2019, governorship election has continued to generate agitation for review and possibly, a reversal of the judgment.

Ihedioha’s party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been at the forefront of the advocacy. The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, while addressing a press conference on the judgment two days after it was delivered, said it must be reversed in the interest of justice.

“In the light of extraordinary circumstances that vitiate that judgment as a product manipulation and a clear coup d’etat against the will of the people of Imo State, we demand that the decision of the Supreme Court on the Imo governorship election be reviewed and reversed in the interest of justice,” Secondus has said.

Other eminent Nigerians have spoken in a similar vein. Three days ago, Bishops and other Christian leaders in Imo State under the umbrella of the Concerned Church Leaders Forum (CCLF) raised their voices against the judgment. The clerics, who spoke through the Anglican Bishop of Ohaji/Egbema, Chidi Oparajiaku, said the judgment ran counter to the facts on the ground. They urged the apex court “to review the judgment and serve justice in the overall interest of peace, unity, development and continued survival of democracy in the state and Nigeria in general.”

Also on the same date, the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), Bishop Emmanuel Olisa Chukwuma, addressed a press conference in Enugu, where he wondered how the Supreme Court Justices arrived at the decision. The cleric even accused the Justices of incompetence.

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“I am speaking the minds of some Bishops in the Anglican Church that we are very discontented and disagree with the Supreme Court’s kangaroo judgment in Imo State. We feel disappointed with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who has not got his facts correct and we feel that that judgment is wicked and corrupt. We call on the Supreme Court to reverse the judgment to avert the wrath of God,” he stated.

Uzodinma had challenged Ihedioha’s victory from the Imo Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal up to the Supreme Court on the ground that he scored the highest number of votes in the election but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) returned Ihedioha as the governor of the state.

Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who delivered the judgment of the seven-man panel led by Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad, declared that the votes due to Uzodinma were unlawfully excluded from 388 polling units and should be added to his votes.

The apex court considered the submissions of a principal witness who was on a subpoena to present results and held that the lower court was wrong in its ruling.

Justice Kekere-Ekun, while reading the lead judgment, declared Uzodinma as the validly elected Governor and ordered that the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha be withdrawn immediately and issued to Uzodinma.

INEC had since obeyed the court order and Uzodinma subsequently sworn-in. He has since continued to steer the affairs of the state.

But with increasing calls for the reversal of the judgment, the question on many lips is: Will the Supreme Court bow to pressure and reverse itself?

Under the doctrine of stare decisis, the Supreme Court is bound by its previous decisions. As such there had been cases where the judgment of the Supreme Court stunned a section of the public but the court didn’t reverse its judgment when approached.

In the case of Ihedioha, a constitutional lawyer in Abuja, Mr. Realwan Okpanachi, has argued that the apex court no longer had the jurisdiction to entertain any application relating to the Imo governorship election, because it had clearly passed the 60 days provided for in the constitution. The lawyer cited Section 285 (7) of the constitution to support his assertion.

Okpanachi, who recently spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said: “Section 285 (7) states that an appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or Court of Appeal in an election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days,” he said.

He added: “The judgment in particular was delivered by the Court of Appeal before November 20, 2019. The appeal by Uzodinma was filed around November 20, 2019, and that is to say that the judgment was passed before November 20, 2019.

“When you calculate from November 20, 2019 till date, it clearly shows that it is above 60 days,” Okpanachi said.

According to the lawyer, the Supreme Court cannot entertain, hear, determine any appeal or application connected with that election appeal.

“The judgment, as it is, is binding, conclusive and cannot be set aside, reversed or touched by any person, including the Supreme Court itself. The Supreme Court is the apex court; the highest court in Nigeria and its decision, by virtue of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is final. Therefore, its decision is not subject to any other authority or persons,” Okpanachi said

Okpanachi was right as existing precedents show. On November 2, 2009, Supreme Court dismissed Celestine Omehia’s application seeking for review of its judgment of October 25, 2007, which removed him and declared Rotimi Amaechi as the governor of River State. Amaechi won Rivers State PDP governorship primary in December 2006 but was substituted with Omehia. Early in 2007, Amaechi filed a suit challenging his substitution against the April 14, 2007 elections. The Court held that Amaechi was wrongly substituted with Omehia by PDP and that in the eyes of the law, Amaechi who didn’t contest the election was at all times the legal candidate of PDP at the elections, and proceeded to declare him as Governor of Rivers State.

But Omehia re-appealed saying the apex court made a mistake, arguing that the judgment contradicted some provisions of the 1999 Constitution. But the seven-man panel led by Justice Alloysius Kastina-Alu described the suit as frivolous and an act of judicial rascality. They accordingly dismissed the case with N100,000 cost, saying even if it was a mistake, the apex court has a right to make a mistake.

They insisted that Amaechi remained the legitimate governor and that the decision was final regardless of whether it was rightly or wrongly entered.

The Supreme Court Justices Katsina-Alu had urged anybody aggrieved by the court’s decision to appeal to heaven where God Almighty reigns supreme and not in Nigeria where they held sway, adding that “only God can reverse the October 25, 2007 verdict.”

Also, on May 24, 2019, the Supreme Court nullified the elections of all the candidates of the APC in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections. Delivering a unanimous judgment of the five-man panel led by then Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the apex court declared the first runners-up in the 2019 general elections in the state as the winners of all the posts earlier declared to have been won by the APC and its candidates.

Justice Paul Galinje, who read the lead judgment, upheld the decision of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the APC did not conduct any valid primary election and as such had no candidate for any of the elections in the state. He described the votes polled by the APC candidates in the elections as wasted. He then ordered that the party and the candidates with the second highest votes and the spread in the various elections were the valid winners. With that, the APC lost the 36 elective positions comprising the governorship, deputy governorship, three senatorial, seven House of Representatives and 24 state House of Assembly seats to the PDP.

After reviewing the judgment, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, described it as a national tragedy. In a statement, the distinguished legal scholar and human rights activist had raised many posers for the Supreme Court while also urging the APC to approach the court for a review of the judgment.

He said: “By this judgment, the landslide APC victories in the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections are transferred to the PDP.

“If the APC primaries were defective, should the electorate be deprived of their democratic and constitutional rights to vote? Is the electorate to be punished for the transgressions of party officials? Should the judiciary replace the electorate’s decision and install losers in office? Could the judiciary not have drawn on the deep recesses of its intellectual capacity, authority and its inexorable commitment to justice, to prevent this undemocratic calamity? Can the APC officials not be punished, for their lapses without denying the electorate their democratic rights? Should the judiciary take over the electoral rights of the electorate? Is this not a clear case of technical law completely overthrowing justice?

“Have the members of the Supreme Court not achieved a level of creativity and authority to provide a solution without burying democracy and taking over from the registered voters as the judicial electorate? If this judgment had been an international one, it could have been described as ‘shocking the conscience of humanity.’ In this case, it shocks the conscience of Nigerian humanity… I advise the APC legal team to apply for a review of the two judgments. Their Lordships ought to be given an opportunity to reverse this unprecedented tragedy.

The ruling party heeded his advise and filed an application asking the Supreme Court to review the judgment. But the Court threw away the appeal. Justice Rhodes-Vivour in his lead judgment held that the application was incompetent and time-barred, adding that the court had no jurisdiction in the matter.

“The Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the matter because anything that has to do with pre-election matter must be brought within 60 days after a decision had been delivered,” he said.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour further held that the consequential orders made were part and parcel of the pre-election matter and it was an abuse asking the apex court to review its judgment or orders.

“We don’t seat on appeal over our own decision. We have no jurisdiction over this matter,” he said.

Looking at the law and the above precedents, calls for the reversal of the Supreme Court judgment on the Imo State governorship election may not serve any purpose other than warming the political space. But it remains to be seen the path the Justices of the apex court would toe this time around.

Opinion

Bridging Housing Deficit In Nigeria

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By Alex Enemanna

Housing is one of the most pressing needs of man. Standing in-between food and clothing, shelter is also a must-have even in the domain of lesser animals, just like they need food, like human to live. Apart from the critical role housing plays in man’s existence, it helps in his security and giving him a sense of self esteem.

Interestingly, irrespective of our social and economic status, we all need roof over our heads after the day’s activities. The low status of a man in the society does not make the need for a decent housing less important.

However, Nigeria is still miles away from attaining sufficiency in housing for all, just like food shortage has for long been a social challenge.

According to World Bank 2014 collection of development indicators, about 50.2% of our people still live in slums and unplanned settlements with its huge psychological and health effects caused by inaccessibility of social amenities. This is even as insignificant percentage live in debauchery and affluence, with catalogue of estates in their names, making the gap between the haves and have-nots become more worrisomely visible.

This social challenge has further been protracted by the country’s uncontrolled population growth which according to World Bank 2017 report is put at 2.6% annually. Available report from Proshare indicates that the national housing deficit is in excess of 17 million units.

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Not much has been done by those in authority to reasonably bridge this disturbing gap. Sadly, housing finance is at its infancy in our country. Its mortgage ratio is put at 0.5 which is grossly inadequate compared with what obtains in other climes especially South Africa where housing finance has hit 30%.

A non-governmental organization, Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF) puts Nigeria’s home ownership rate at 24%, far lower than that of Indonesia that boasts of 84%, Kenya 73% and South Africa 56%. Not even our country’s status as the giant of Africa could come to play in remedying this deficit especially where other countries in the continent are making reasonable progress.

Mortgage finance industry in Nigeria targets mainly high income earners, not including middle and low income earners. This is also coupled with high cost of securing and registering land title in Nigeria where acquisition has now become an exclusive reserve of the rich and those whose friends are in government.

In addition to this, the slow administrative procedures, lack of access to finance and inconsistent policy of the government has remained one of the impediments towards achieving sufficiency in housing in the country.
Not so much success has been recorded in the pseudo government interventions at bridging housing deficit in the country.

The Federal Housing Authority, equivalent of Federal Housing Administration in the US which was charged with the responsibility of preparing and submitting to the government proposal for national housing programmes, development and management of real estate on both commercial and profitable basis in all states of the federation, provision of sites and services scheme for the benefit of Nigerians has been dwarfed by poor administration and corruption. Like many other interventionist plans, the Federal Housing Authority is in limbo. The schemes wherever they are found across the country are on the ‘A’ list of expensive real estates. They have been sold off to money bags who can afford upfront payment, who then place the burden of recouping their investment on the shoulders of hapless citizens.

Efforts by individuals to put in place a makeshift shelter for themselves and their family members have always been met with brute resistance from the government even when there are no plans to advance their welfare through the provision of housing. Such harsh policies are usually justified with excuses that they are attempting to distort the government’s masterplan. In Abuja for instance, regular demolition of the so called illegal structures has become a recurrent decimal. The period of the current Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i as the FCT minister recorded the mother of all careless demolitions of people’s homes in the name of maintaining a masterplan, as if the plans are being made for animals and not humans. Till date some of those displaced are either struggling to be on their feet again or joined in the catalogue of things that give us sleepless nights as a people. Some of these lands still lie fallow without any indication that there are plans to develop them anytime soon.

In as much I do not fault the government’s efforts to control development in the urban centres and restore sanity, there is need to put in place affordable housing system where even the low-income earners can have a place to live. One of the ways to achieve this is not usually by leveling people’s homes, even for vendetta and political reasons. A little regulation could be the magic wand the country needs in its efforts to make housing provision for citizens.

The high cost building materials cannot be extricated from why our dream for affordable housing for all has not been met. More worrisome, majority of the building materials used in the country are imported. This therefore makes the local production of building materials at commercial quantity very imperative. Legion of real estates in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and other cities have been overgrown by weeds and currently being occupied by rodents. This is because of their unaffordability.

It is a known fact that the government is already overburdened with barrage of issues bedeviling us and may not anytime soon bridge Nigeria’s growing housing deficit. To this end, there is the need for a robust Public Private sector Partnership arrangement. The success recorded in telecommunication, mass media and other sectors can be replicated in housing. Similar efforts failed in the past as a result of poor monitoring and evaluation by the government. This must be guarded against. The greater number of Nigerians sheltered, the better for all of us especially at a period when insecurity in the country has hit the rooftop.

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Opinion

An Open Letter To Senator T.A Orji

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TA Orji

By Kalu Nwokoro Idika

I am writing this letter to you with so much grieve and disappointment after reading the report of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on how you, your son and other crooks who could be at large fleeced Abia State treasury and left the entire State in total ruins. Considering the magnitude of your financial banditry as a former Governor, I contemplated throwing caution to the wind in this letter but however, I considered how parochial such approach could be looking at the level of premium placed on the issue at hand.

Since the return of the much touted democracy in 1999, Gods Own State has had it so bad when it comes to good governance. The narrative has been very unfavourable. It has been a reign of economic vandals and petty thieves who know next to nothing about leadership. When other federating units are working assiduously with the scarce resources at their disposal just to better the wellbeing of their people, the sermon seems to be the otherwise in Abia State as political demagogues are rather engrossed in a marathon of looting and political vendetta

In 2007, when Mr Orji Uzor Kalu handpicked and made you his successor, many of us knew that you were not different from him; an old wine was simply changed into a new wine skin. He conscripted you into the government house with the false believe that you shall assist to shield his financial malfeasance from the public. But unfortunately, his instinct dribbled him when he suddenly became aware that you were nothing but a dubious and peckish lion panting for the slightest opportunity to devour and unleash mayhem. The recent revelation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on how you and your son who is now the speaker of Abia State House of Assembly plundered the common wealth of the State calls for an urgent action.

Mr Orji, your era as the former Governor of Abia State was characterised by elaborate fraud. Abia never witnessed any iota of development. It was all about the usual sharing of money to political contractors and thugs who assisted in maintaining the political abracadabra that sustained your inept and clueless administration. Under your supervision, Abia State became the most dirtiest place in Nigeria, insecurity was at the peak and there was high level of infrastructural decay. Your government did practically nothing in order to ensure that Abia metamorphosed from the threshold of peripheralism. Little did we know that you were busy looting and mortgaging the future of the State for personal aggrandizement.

The terrible tale of how you and your fickle son embezzled over five hundred billion naira meant for a State that is on the brink of economic collapse calls for a state of emergency. Very catastrophic for Gods Own State that hardly pays its workers and pensioners. When we thought the enemy was far from us little did we know that the killer was within. Five hundred billion naira which would have changed the entire economic landscape of Abia State was diverted and pocketed by a heartless fellow like you without any sign of remorse. You bastardised the entire political process in Abia State and also recruited a wimp as a successor whom the political baton of cleaning up the mess you created was given. Know wonder you ran like a kleptomaniac toad to the senate to hibernate.

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Are you not ashamed of yourself Mr T. A Orji? Where is your conscience? With five hundred billion naira, Abia State would have been on the page of economic prosperity. There will be state of the art hospitals, schools, roads, factories and viable transport system. Thousands of jobs will be created with such money but you never thought it wise, now Abia State is dying because of your selfishness. The pathetic side of the whole charade is that you are presently in the senate as a law maker. I wonder the kind of law an economic saboteur will be making in the parliament. No doubt, only a nation without a defined priority would allow a distinguished enemy of democracy like you to be in their legislative chamber. If there is any atom of shame in you Mr T. A Orji, by now you should have vacated your seat in the senate and surrendered yourself to the anti graft agency for onward prosecution.

You pocketed N383 billion, revenue from federal account, N55 billion from excess crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure-P, N1.8 billion ecological funds, N10.5 billion loan from First Bank of Nigeria through the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs, N4 billion loan from Diamond Bank, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan for farmers, N55 billion ASOPADEC fund and N500 million purported to be security vote, which were being converted for eight years according to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

Mr Orji, history will be unkind to you and other scoundrels that perpetuated this ominous crime which has left Abia State in tatters. But one thing is paramount, there won’t be any hiding rendezvous for you and others as the long arm of the law is bound to catch all of you. Many workers and pensioners died out of frustration due to your greed and their blood will be on your head. The good people of God’s Own State won’t rest until justice is served. You are wicked and very ungodly.

In conclusion, late Anini would have been more preferable in the Senate than you. You constitute a threat to democracy and economic prosperity. As the anti graft agency is thorougly digging into your case, I will suggest you start preparing yourself for what is to come because out of greed you decided to eat alone at the expense of the poor masses. There won’t be peace for the wicked.

Warm regards!

Kalu Nwokoro Idika is a political analyst, investigative and freelance journalist.

He can be reached via email: Kalunwokoroidika@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editors thereof.

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Opinion

Breakdown Of Igbo Marginalization In Nigeria

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Ohanaeze Ndigbo

By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

“I sincerely believe that the incessant cries about Igbo marginalization in Nigeria is unfounded”
Ola (Kassim)

Mr. Kassim in a well written article (On Feb 17, 2020, at 3:43 PM,) wrote the above. He went to try to prove the impossible, that the Igbo is not marginalized except for the period 1967-1970 (the war period). He cited examples: The Igbo are doing just as well as other ethnic groups; The Igbo are found in almost every village, town and city outside of the SE where they ply their trades; work in all professions for which they are qualified, live and raise their children; have been in every government since the war; have a small percentage of their mega rich, the ordinarily rich and the comfortable ones among them who breathe the same air as the ever dwindling and struggling no of the middle class and a mass of poor people; thanks to their hard work, the Igbo own more than 2/3 of the privately owned properties in Abuja; The Igbo also own residential and commercial real estate properties in Lagos, Port Harcourt, and many other major cities in Nigeria; etc.

Mr. Kassim concluded by stating that “Marginalized and oppressed peoples throughout the world are usually not granted free access to live anywhere they want in their countries.”
The examples cited by Mr. Kassim would look like true. When the Igbo cry about marginalization what they actually mean is marginalization by the federal government. Let’s see how:

The SE zone has only 5 states as compared to 6 and 7 states in other zones; has just 15 senators as compared with 18-21 in other zones out of 106 members; has 43 representatives out of 360; has 5 governors out of 36; the lowest number by dollars and by counts of all federal infrastructure development programs including road mileage and bridges; zero police and military colleges and infrastructure; little refineries and electricity grids and pay the highest for electricity; etc.

The federal government borrows money for its development programs but invests the least in SE even though we collectively pay for the loans. 50 years after the war, the war damages have not been repaired despite the fact that billions of dollars were donated by foreign government to repair the damages. The money went to other Nigerian states that had no war damages; some state governments seized Igbo assets and did not release them and did not develop them and they went to blazes. Etc.
These are the reasons for the incessant cries about Igbo marginalization. Nigerians when they sit in a conference like in the House or the Senate agree on the marginalization principles.

But individual Nigerians once out of group welcome the Igbo in their communities. The quick recovery of the Igbo is due to individual efforts of Nigerians. The Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Edo, Ijaw, Efik, etc. each as individual made tremendous sacrifices to see the survival of the Igbo. My uncle had a couple of houses in Kafanchan. During the war, the tenants collected the rent from his property and after the war they handed the rents to him. He was instantly rehabilitated and he sent my cousins to America where they now are thriving. The suppliers to Igbo traders refurnished their customers with inventory without demanding credit worthiness or security deposits. My former students came looking for me and one who was in a secondary school in 1970 gave me one pound from his pocket money. The former military governor of Midwestern Nigeria, Col Ogbemudia, gave a grant to University of Nigeria. There were many benevolent acts like these.

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But the Military Governor of Rivers State, Diette Spiff, seized Igbo properties in Port Harcourt and disposed them to his cronies. No compensation. And he put a Rivers’ government stamp on the act. Mr. Kassim’s treatise on the Igbo discrimination/marginalization may look good to a casual reader but there was/is structural marginalization embedded in Nigeria governance that calls for incessant marginalization calls. Until we listen to the cries and do something about them, they will be incessant.

Restructuring is possibly the only solution and many other Nigerian ethnic groups seem to be coming around to the idea.

Nigeria putting her head in the sand like the ostrich, and ignoring the reasons for the cries is not the answer.

~ Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

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