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Zamfara election: Why Supreme Court declined to set-aside judgement


The Supreme Court, on Friday, declined to set-aside its judgement that sacked all candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, that won various positions in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections.

The apex court, in a four-to-one decision by a five-man panel of Justices led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, accused the APC of abusing the judicial process by seeking to review its final judgement “through the back door”.

It held that the apex court, by its Order 8 Rule 16, lacks the jurisdiction to tamper with its final judgement on any matter, except to correct clerical errors that arose from an accidental slip, or to vary a judgement or order, so as to give the intended meaning.

Justice Inyang Okoro who delivered the lead judgement, said the application, which was brought by a faction of the APC led by the immediate past Governor of Zamfara State, Ahldulaziz Yari, was bound to fail.

“There is a total prohibition to the review for f a judgement which accurately represented what the court implied. Such judgement cannot be varied.

“Our forebears did not leave any one in doubt that judgement of the Supreme Court, once delivered, shall not be over-rided”.

Relying on plethora of decided cases, Justice Okoro maintained that the finality of the judgement of the Supreme Court “is final for all ages”, and could only be dislodged through legislation.

“The finality of judgement of the Supreme Court is sealed. No one is allowed to file an appeal through the backdoor, no matter how the processes are disguised”, he added.

Aside declining to set-aside the judgement, Justice Okoro awarded N2million cost against the Applicants.

He warned that political parties must always obey their own constitution and play by the rules of the game.

“Where any political party neglects, refuses or fails to follow the rule of the game, the hammer of the court will always fall on them”, Justice Okoro held.

However, a member of the panel, Justice Chima Nweze, gave a dissenting opinion, insisting that the Supreme Court has the power to set-aside any judgement it gave in error.

Justice Nweze, held that the Supreme Court, made a wrong consequential order, when it directed that candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that got the second highest number of votes in the election, should be sworn in.

He said the Supreme Court was not “a Father Christmas” to give benefits to candidates that were not parties in an Intra-party dispute that involved only members of the APC.

“This court has the power to overrule itself when its judgement was entered in error. It is better to admit any error than to abide in error”, Justice Nweze held.

He held that the reliance on finality of the judgement of the Supreme Court was not sufficient to extinguish the tenets of justice, especially when the judgement was entered in error.

Consequently, he disagreed with the CJN and three other Justices on the panel and declared the consequential order of the Supreme Court that handed PDP victory in Zamfara State, a nullity.

Remarkably, it was Justice Nweze that also gave a dissenting that nullified the judgement of the Supreme Court that sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP as governor of Imo State and handed victory to Hope Uzodinma of the APC.

It will be recalled that the apex court had shortly after the 2019 general elections was conducted, disqualified all candidates of the APC in Zamfara state on the premise that they did not emerge through a validly conducted primary election.

It directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to withdraw their Certificates of Return and issue fresh ones to candidates that polled second highest number of lawful votes.

The judgement followed a legal action that was commenced by a faction of the APC led by Senator Kabiru Marafa, who held a parallel primary election in the state.

Meanwhile, another set of APC candidates led by ex-governor Yari, re-approached the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of the consequential order that made PDP to take over every elective positions in the state.

They argued that the appropriate order the Supreme Court ought to have made was to order a fresh election in Zamfara State.

According to them, the apex court, by its decision, usurped the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and “wasted” lawful votes that belonged to the APC.

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