Zamfara State Supreme Court Judgement and its Attendant Consequences in Abia

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By Ugochukwu Amaraizu Esq.
It is true that no amount of protest, criticisms or extra judicial debate can thwart, alter or change a judgment delivered by a Court of competent jurisdiction. However, this seems not to be applicable in the recent Court of Appeal judgment in Abia election that has attracted the widest criticisms from prominent Nigerians, civil society groups and some international observers/contributors. This is a judgment that left the former Senate President of Nigeria- Chief Adolphus Nwagbara on the streets of Aba, protesting alongside other sons and daughters of Abia State, who believe that Justice must not only be done in a matter but must manifestly be seen to have been done.

It is interesting to note that while the highly controversial and contestable judgment is still surviving on the artificial air breathed into it by the Court of Appeal, an outstanding Legal icon and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria- Mike Ozekhome has rightly faulted the judgment. According to him, the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law by declaring Dr Alex Otti winner of an election in which he was not able to prove his own case.
It will be recalled that the Chief Justice of the Federation recently instructed Justices of the Court of Appeal from the various divisions to guard against giving conflicting judgments. He reasoned that once a judgment is delivered in one division, same should be transmitted to the other divisions as the practice will promote consistency and fairness in every judgment. As a matter of fact, it will be embarrassing for a Court of Appeal in one division to hold that card reader cannot be a ground to nullify an election while another division will rely on it to nullify an election. These are Federal Courts and must deliver judgments in accordance with the express provisions of our laws.
While Abians, prominent lawyers and groups are still criticizing the judgment of the Appeal Court which centered on OVER-VOTING, the SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA yesterday, handed down a judgment that will always serve as a reference point in matters of over-voting. It is obvious that the Court of Appeal who pronounced that the State Returning Officer had no power to cancel election in 3 LGs ( as provided in the Electoral Act ) went ahead to ORDER cancellation of election in the 3 LGs based on over-voting.
For clarity, let’s hear the Supreme Court:
To prove over-voting, the law is trite that the petitioner
must tender the Voters’ Register.
The Petitioners in Abia Tribunal did not tender same. The Respondents at the lower Tribunal hammered on this issue with respect to the elections in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isialangwa North. The Tribunal rightly observed it and dismissed the petition.
Again, the Supreme Court has this to say:
The appellant ought to have shown that figures representing
over-voting, if removed, would result in victory for the petitioner.
Friends, we heard when Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN who appeared for the 3rd Respondent- INEC told the Tribunal that even if the total number of invalid votes or the number representing over-voting is removed, the 1st Respondent- Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu would still be leading.
The question now is “which evidence did the Court of Appeal rely on to cancel both the valid and the invalid votes?” Some people are arguing that the Court of Appeal added the valid votes. That is pure LIES. If you check item No.3 of the Order of the Court of Appeal, you will notice that the Court of Appeal cancelled election in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isialangwa North. The valid votes that were added are the ones from the supplementary election that took place only in few polling Units in Osisioma and Isialangwa North. But there was no supplementary in Obingwa which was cancelled alongside Osisioma and Isialangwa North. This is why the Court of Appeal declared Dr Alex Otti winner of the election of April 11 and 25. The Appeal Court cancelled the election held in the 3 LGs on 11/4/2015 thereby disenfranchising over 300,000 registered voters.
Obviously, the Appeal Court relied on the documentary evidence of the INEC staff and Ahamdi Nweke to deliver the judgment that Abians and most Nigerians have described as a travesty of Justice. In this respect, let us hear the Supreme Court’s wisdom as reflected in the Zamfara State judgment. They said:
The reliance on the evidence of one of the witnesses
through a document he did not make has not made
any difference.
Ladies and gentlemen! What else do you want to hear? Did you not hear or see that none of the Respondents at the Tribunal cross examined the INEC staff who came and dumped the card reader report? When the Lead Counsel for the Petitioners- Chief Akin Olujunmi, SAN wanted to ask her questions under examination-in-chief to enable her do some clarifications on the contents of the documents, the Respondents’ Counsel raised objections and same were upheld. In their respective arguments, Counsel for the Respondents argued vehemently that the woman is not the maker of the document and therefore could not tender same in evidence. This is the correct position of law and the Tribunal rightly upheld it. We were all surprised when the Court of Appeal relied on the said document to arrive at its decision on over-voting. Again, I refer my friends to the above quote from the Supreme Court.
Also, the Respondents canvassed that Ahamdi’s evidence was not reliable for the purpose of nullifying an election on ground of corrupt practices, as he was just a State Collation Agent gathering reports from Ward and Polling Unit Agents. The Petitioners did not call even one Polling Unit Agent from the 3 LGs which they pressed the Tribunal to cancel. NO POLLING UNIT AGENT AT ALL FROM THE 3 LGS! And the election took place at the Poling Units…. Strangely, the Appeal Court held that as a State Collation Agent, his evidence stands whether or not he was at the Polling Units. However, let us also hear the Supreme Court’s wisdom in the Zamfara State matter. They said:
…..for a petitioner to succeed on the ground of corruption,
he must prove that corrupt practices or non compliance
actually took place.
Friends, it is suprising that Chief Ahamdi Nweke only dropped a document and the Court of Appeal relied on the document he dropped to jump into a conclusion that there were corrupt practices in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isialangwa North. The Court of Appeal did not take into consideration the defense of the Respondents in form of documentary evidence too. Where facts deposed in affidavits challenge themselves, it is expected of parties to call witnesses, especially the petitioners in this instance, to prove their case. The petitioners did not call even ONE Polling Unit agent ( EYE WITNESS ) from any of the 3 LGs to prove their case. How did the Petitioners prove their case before the Tribunal?
It is amazing that the Appeal Court allowed the appeal of a party who appeared before the same Appeal Court and told them that he was not able to prove his case at the Lower Tribunal.
Friends, ON ZAMFARA SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT WE STAND!

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