Chairman, Nigeria’s Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN), in this interview speaks on last Tuesday’s verdict of the Supreme Court that voided the election of Chief Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Imo State and declared Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who had come fourth in the result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the winner.
Describing the judgment as unassailable, right and sound, Ngige says those faulting the judgment do not have the facts of the case. He, however, calls for far-reaching electoral reforms that will make the outcome of elections in the country acceptable to all and sundry.
The judgment of the Supreme Court on Imo State governorship election has been generating mixed reactions from various quarters. What is your take on the matter as a senior lawyer in the country?
My take, which I had canvassed in a television programme on the very day the judgment was delivered, is that based on the facts on ground, the judgment is unassailable. The judgment is right; it is sound in the circumstances.
And I gave my reasons that if results were excluded by the tribunal and the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court finds that the exclusion of those results were wrongly done and they now included it, thereby re-computing the collated result, the outcome will naturally be what it is now.
That after re-computing, the candidate who has scored majority of one quarter votes in two thirds of the local government areas will be declared winner.
And the Supreme Court after re-computing found that the person who had earlier come fourth has now become number one and the person who was earlier number one is now number two and the person who earlier became number two is no longer a candidate so all the votes are deleted.
The person who came third did not ask to be declared winner; he only wanted a re-run but the re-run cannot be given when there is a clear winner and the Supreme Court is not a father Christmas; they cannot give him what he did not ask for. So, the person that became number one and met the spread was therefore lawfully declared as the winner of the election.
Sentiments have been raised about how the result came about. It is not my business to discuss how the result came about. The only issue is: Did the Supreme Court properly admit the result? If they properly admitted the result, then you cannot question the decision.
If you remember, when election takes place, result sheets are made into up to 10 duplicates so that all the party agents will get their copy, the police will get their own copy and even the DSS.
At times, some observers are given. So, if the candidate who claims to have won the election subpoenas the police to come and tender their own copy that tallies with his own, he has discharged the onus on him and the probative value will be given to those results. And this is not the first time this is happening.
If you can recall, in the case involving Peter Obi and Chris Ngige, it was a question of also each candidate producing results and calling witnesses who had duplicate copies to come and corroborate his own. In the end, the tribunal engaged in re-computation based on the result available.
After re-computing, they held that Peter Obi had the highest majority votes cast in two third of the 21 local governments of Anambra State and he was therefore declared winner over Ngige, who was the person INEC had earlier declared. So, it is the same thing.
People are also saying that there is no APC member in the Imo State House of Assembly and referring to Action Alliance (AA) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and others.
All those people are offshoots of the APC. And in any event, when Peter Obi was declared winner in Anambra, he met a House of Assembly that was dominated entirely by PDP. He had no single member in the House.
So, all these things have their precedent before. So, there is nothing new in what the Supreme Court has done in my own view.
But why some legal luminaries are questioning the judgment, saying it needed to be further digged into… ?
(Cuts in) Anybody asking further questions after the Supreme Court had made the pronouncement is engaging in academic discussion, which is good for a symposium or retreat.
As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the decision is final. How can you further dig into how number four became number one when, like you said, I have explained that it was as a result of the exclusion of some results that made number four to come to that position. And with the inclusion of those results, he has now become number one. It’s simple.