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Bayelsa Judgement: No force on earth can reverse our decision, Supreme Court tells APC, Lyon, others

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The Supreme Court declared on Wednesday that in line with its rules, “it shall not” review its judgment.

It said the only condition that could warrant a review of its judgment” once given and delivered” is if “there is clerical mistake or some errors.”

The apex court made this pronouncement while giving a judgment on the application by the All Progressives Congress (APC), its governorship candidate David Lyon and running mate Bobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, for a review of its February 13 judgment in the Bayelsa State governorship election.

Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo were declared Bayelsa State governor-elect and deputy governor-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after the November 16, 2019 election.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Duoye Diri and his running mate Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo challenged the qualification of Degi-Eremienyo based on discrepancies in his names.

This application was upheld by the Supreme Court which voided the candidacy of the APC team. It ordered INEC to withdrew the certificate of return from the APC.

Dissatisfied, the APC, Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo filed applications before the Supreme Court asking it to reverse the judgment.

Giving its verdict on Wednesday, after a review by a seven-man panel, headed by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, the apex court said: “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.

“To do otherwise is to open a floodgate of litigation on appeals already settled by this court. There is even no guarantee that if these applications are granted, the other side will not come up with fresh applications for a further review of the court’s decision.

“As I said, there must be an end to litigation to ensure certainty in the law. The two sets of applicants are by these applications, asking this court to sit on appeal over its judgment delivered on 13/2/2020 in this appeal, which is regrettable.

“I cannot believe, and with tears in my eyes, that in my life time, I will see very senior members of the Bar, bring applications of this nature to this court, which are aimed at desecrating the sanctity of this court, foul its well-known principle that the decision of this court is final and destroying the esteem in which this court is held.

“The end result of the foregoing is that these applications are vexatious, they are frivolous and they amount to a gross abuse of the court process.

“In the circumstances, the two applications are hereby dismissed. Cost of N10million each are awarded against the 1st, 2nd and the 3rd applicants respectively in favour of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents, to be paid personally by their respective counsel”, Justice Amina Augie who read the judgment, said.

Other members of the panel are Justices  Mary Odili, Olukayode Ariwoola, John Okoro, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and Ejembi Eko.

The applicants, were represented by Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and Chief Wole Onanipekun (SAN).

The respondents in the matter are the PDP Governor Duoye Diri and Deputy Governor Lawrence Erhujakpo.

All members of the panel were unanimous in holding that the prayers in the two applications do not fall within those that could be granted under the provision of Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court’s Rules, which provides  for instances when the court could review its judgment.

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.”

Justice Augie said non of the grounds of the two applications meet the condition for review contained in the provision of the court’s Rules.

Justice Augie said: “Having considered the prayers sought, viz a viz the position of the law and the arguments and submissions made by all the parties, it is clear that the two applications lack merit and they constitute an abuse of the court process.

“Also,not matter however the prayers sought are crafted, there is no doubt that the two sets of applicants are asking this court to review its judgment delivered on the 13th of February 2020 in appeal No: SC/1/2020.”

Justice Augie noted that Order 8 Rule 16 of the Rules of the Supreme Court uses the words ‘shall not,’ which implied that the court is not authorised and lacked jurisdiction to review its judgment, except in the circumstances set out in the said provision of the court’s Rules.

She also noted that the two sets of applications “have not shown this court any clerical mistake that needs to be corrected in the judgment, which they sought to be reviewed.

“They have not pointed 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.

“What they are asking the court to do is what the said provision (of the court’s. Rules) prohibits. They are asking this court to vary the operating and substantive part of its judgment and thereby substituting it with different form entirely.”

Justice Augie said there must be an end to litigation, and that Section 235 of the Constitution makes it clear that no decision of the Supreme Court shall be appealed against.

She said the Supreme Court, being the final court of the land, implies that its decision is final no matter how any one feels about it.

Babalola, SAN, counsel to Lyon and his running mate in his submissions said the Supreme Court has inherent decision and power to set aside its own decision.

“The judgment which voided the election of  Lyon and his deputy was a nullity on account of denial of fair hearing to them.

According to him: “The procedure adopted by the apex court on February 13 was wrong because there was no cause of action at the time it gave judgment against Lyon.

However, Mr Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Counsel to the PDP told the apex court that the applications by APC and its candidates were dangerous invitation to the Supreme Court to violate section 285 of the 1999 constitution, for the court to sit on appeal over its own matter.

Oyetibo argued that having delivered final judgment on merit, the court has no jurisdiction to sit on appeal in the judgment, adding that it is scandalous to ask the apex court to review the judgment.

He added that the apex court was right in disqualifying Lyon as the governor-elect because section 187 of the 1999 constitution is clear and unambiguous to the effect that a governorship candidate who has no deputy candidate is not qualified to contest any governorship election in Nigeria.

“When Supreme Court gives judgment, it is deemed correct.

It has never happened in the history of the Supreme Court to reverse itself, its judgment is final and finality: and whatever Supreme Court says in the interpretation of the law is the law”, he said.

His submissions were adopted by other respondents in the matter.

The apex court held that the nomination form Degi-Eremieoyo submitted to INEC for the Nov. 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa state, contained false information of fundamental nature.

However, not satisfied with the decision of the apex court, the APC, Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo applied to the court for a review and setting aside of its judgment that disqualified them from the November 16 poll.

The applicants specifically wants the Supreme Court to set aside the “wrong” interpretation given to its judgment of February 13, 2020 and the subsequent execution by INEC.

Among others, APC is contending that the Supreme Court, in its judgment,  misinterpreted the November 12, 2019 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja which it affirmed.

The party argued that the Supreme Court acted without jurisdiction and denied it fair hearing when it proceeded to disqualify its governorship candidate even though the Federal High Court, in the judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo, which the apex court affirmed, refused the  prayer to disqualify Lyon.

APC also faulted the interpretation given to the Supreme Court judgment by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in deciding to issue certificate of return to the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In court were APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, Governor Diri, Lyon’s running mate Degi-Eremienyo and PDP spokesman Kola Ologbodiyan.

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