The effort of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to reclaim its victory in the November 16 Bayelsa State governorship elections which was nullified by the Supreme Court failed, woefully.
There are no remedies that Governor Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will rule the Bayelsa state for the next four years, other things being equal.
Recall that, the Supreme Court had sacked the APC’s candidate, David Lyon, after finding his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, guilty of presenting false information regarding his certificates to INEC.
Who instituted the certificate forgery suit against the APC?
The suit against Lyon’s running mate was filed by the PDP and his governorship candidate, Diri.
It was filed before the election. The PDP had wanted the court to disqualify the APC candidates on the basis of the suit.
While the party won at the Federal High Court, it lost at the Court of Appeal
How APC reacted
After the verdict, the APC assembled its legal team to file an application to seek a review and possible reversal of the verdict.
Two senior lawyers, Afe Babalola and Wole Olanipekun, represented the APC.
They filed two applications asking the court to review a portion of the judgment where it voided Lyon’s participation in the election. In their application, the lawyers claimed that the Supreme Court misinterpreted the judgement of the Federal High Court and thus it disqualified Lyon wrongly. They also argued that the trial court, in its judgement delivered on November 12, 2019, found out that Degi-Eremienyo was guilty of submitting forged certificates but that the judge, Inyang Ekwo, did not grant the PDP’s request, which asked for Lyon’s disqualification.
What Supreme Court did and why
On Wednesday, February 26, the Supreme Court rejected the applications.
Why the rejection?
The review was handled by a seven-member panel of the court which was led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta. The panel unanimously dismissed the two applications.
According to the apex court, there was no basis for granting such a request.
Justice Amina Augie who read the lead ruling explained that none of the grounds of the two applications meet the condition for review contained in the provision of the court’s Rules.
The two applications, she added, lack merit and they constitute an abuse of the court process.
The Supreme Court is final
The lead judge noted that the Supreme Court is the final court of the land, meaning that its decision is final no matter how anyone feels about it.
The only time the apex court can review its judgment
The Supreme Court cannot reverse its substantive judgment. It can only correct clerical errors its verdict.
Order 8 Rules 16 of the Supreme Court Rules provides that “the court shall not review any judgment once given and deliver by it, save to correct any clerical mistake or some errors arising from any accidental slip or omission or to vary the judgement or order so as to give effect to its meaning or intention.
“The judgment or order shall not be varied when it correctly represents what the court decided nor shall the operative and substantive part of it be varied and in different form substituted.”
The apex court held that the APC’s applications did not show any clerical mistake that needs to be corrected in the judgment which they sought to be reviewed.
Also, the applications failed to point out any accidental slip or omission in the said judgment or showed this court any part of the said judgment that needs to be varied so as to give effect to its meaning or intention.
The court said the APC’s applications were asking the court to change the substantive judgment which is against the Court’s rule.
To put it simply, the APC’s applications do not fall under the categories of issue that can be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Justice Augie said the APC’s applications violated Section 235 of the constitution which makes it clear that no decision of the Supreme Court shall be appealed against.
“The decision of this court, in appeal No: SC/1/2020 is final for all ages; it is final in the real sense of the word final and no force on earth can make this court to shift from its decision delivered in the appeal: SC/1/2020,” the judge said.
Punishment for the APC lawyers
For filing applications that are vexatious, frivolous, amounting to a gross abuse of the court process, the apex court fined the APC lawyers N30 million.
They are to pay the Bayelsa State governor, his deputy and the PDP N10 million each.
Other members of the panel, including Ngwuta, Mary Odili, Olukayode Ariwoola, John Okoro, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and Ejembi Eko agreed with the lead ruling.
How Festus Keyamo predicted the apex Court’s judgement
Though he was not referring to the APC’s review application, Festus Keyamo, the minister of state for labour who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria had said that the Supreme Court may have to “bare its judicial fangs” to stop the frivolous applications asking for the review of its verdict.
Keyamo particularly made the comment in reaction to the PDP’s plan to ask the Supreme Court for a review of the verdict which upheld the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Until the Supreme Court bares its judicial fangs and recommends some unscrupulous lawyers engaged in this kind of mockery of the judicial system for professional discipline, we are going to destroy the otherwise inviolable sanctity of that Court and ultimately destroy our democracy,” Keyamo said on Twitter
By not only dismissing the applications but also fining the APC lawyers, it appears the Supreme Court was taking steps, as Keyamo advised, to discourage politicians from seeking reviews of its verdict.
PDP may suffer the same fate
The PDP may also face disciplinary measures from the Supreme Court over its application asking for a review and reversal of the verdict which sacked Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State.
Like the APC, it appears the PDP is also asking the apex court to reverse its substantive judgment which sacked the party’s governorship candidate.
However, apparently apprehensive that it may suffer the same fate as the APC in its review application, the PDP on Wednesday issued a statement explaining that its demand on Imo was not in any way in contestation of the authority and finality of the Supreme Court.
The opposition party said its own application was a patriotic effort to assist the Supreme Court in correcting obvious mistakes” that capable of threatening the stability of the nation.
Will the PDP suffer the same fate as the APC? Or will it get a favourable judgment?
The apex court will hear the matter on March 2nd.