Hon. Okoli Akirika is a legal practitioner, a former Commissioner for Lands in Anambra State, the Publicity Coordinator, Atiku / Obi Campaign Organization in the state. In this Interview with PERCY ONYEJEKWE, he argues that the Supreme Court Judgment that ousted Ihedioha was fundamentally wrong. He reasoned that a revisit of the judgment would save the image of the judiciary among other salient issues. Excerpts:
Imo State former Governor, Emeka Ihedioha has asked the Supreme court to revisit its judgment that ousted him. What is your take on that ?
The truth is that the Ihedioha saga has really caused anxiety.in the Nigerian polity. As a matter of fact the entire transactions leading to the supreme court judgment in Ihedioha and matter that took place thereafter called for r concern because it has really tended to expose the Supreme court and subject it to advise and attendant opprobrium you will recall that consequent upon the supreme court judgment in Ihedioha’s case many Nigerians spoke out against the judgment. Nigerians from all walks of life, from all shades of political opinion came out to say that the judgment was not in tandem with a plethora of authorities already decided at the Supreme Court. When eventually the Supreme Court made public the certified true copies of the judgment, the controversy now assumed another different angle, dangerous dimension. PDP now said that the copies made available to them does not represent what the supreme court read that day adding that the supreme court came out but did not spend up to 20 minutes to deliver the judgment. They said the judgment that was given to them ran into 20 pages. So, you can see that so many controversies surrounded the Ihedioha case. Let me take them one after the other. Firstly, the issue of proof as Supreme Court said that Ihedioha and INEC did not disprove the case presented by Hope Uzodimma and APC. With greatest respect and fairness to the Supreme Court, that I don’t think is the position of the law. The law is , as encapsulated in Section 131 of the Evidence Act which says that whoever desires court to give judgment as to the existence of any fact concludes that those facts exist. In a simple language, Hope Uzodimma put 388 units in issue. PW 54 produced 366 or 368. Either way whether 366 or 368 but that was short by either 20 or 22. But lo and behold, the supreme court relied on the evidence of four witness to give judgment in respect of contentious 366 or 368 or 388 in either way you look at it . So, I can say that if look at it from the ancient to the modern, that is, from Buhari vs Obasanjo through Atiku vs Buhari down to the case supreme court decided after the Imo case, Supreme court insisted that you need the evidence of a presiding officer, you need the evidence of a polling party agent, you need the evidence of a voter. In other words you need the evidence of somebody who was present at the poling unit to actually say what happened in that poling unit. But in the case of Uzodimma , supreme court said that the presiding officer will allegedly tender result of 388 adding that Uzodimma did not question the conduct of the election in the units, that he questioned the conduct of the election in the wards. But it is on record that APC never called one collation agent in the entire election petition. So the Jermaine question is on what bases did the Supreme Court rely in coming to the conclusion that Uzodimma proved his allegation beyond reasonable doubt and to warrant PDP and Emeka Ihedioha to robot that proof. Because unless and until the petitioner discharges the onus on him as mandated by Section 131 of the Evidence Act, again in the various case of the supreme court as in the case of INEC vs Andrew, the respondent do not bear any burden to disprove what has not been proven. Because something would be established first, something would be proved first before you now go on to discharge or discus that particular evidence. So, no matter the perspective of prism with which you look at it , with the greatest respect to the supreme court , that their judgment is not in tandem with a long line of authorities already decided by the supreme court .
So, what is the way forward?
What the Supreme Court should do is revisit the judgment. The supreme Court decision in Ihedioha is not in tandem, does not coalesce with what the supreme court has decided in previous cases even after the Ihedioha’s case supreme court still proceeded in Sokoto, Bauchi, Benue and Adamawa to reiterate the position of the law ,that you need somebody at the poling unit to give evidence of what happened..
So, one would now ask the question : why did the supreme court depart from the already settled of law, in the case of Ihedioha, the excuse supreme court allegedly gave that conduct of elect was not the issue was wrong,.because Hope Uzodimma alleged exclusion of his result. so that means that the election was lawfully conducted. If it was not lawfully conducted you can’t talk of exclusion. And INEC said no election was conducted in majority if, not in all the units, so the parties put in, in issue, the conduct of election. So, unless and until Hope Uzodimma and APC prove legitimate conduct of election, the issue of exclusion of election result does not arise. So, to that extent I will say, with respect, that the supreme court judgment is not supportable on the part of that case.
Some are of the view that the Supreme Court should have declared a rerun in the cancelled areas. Is that advisable now having past that aspect in the judgment?
That was not in an exempt situation. But now people have gone into computation of result .What the court should do is now look at the result while re-compute the result. On the face of reviewing the result, Supreme Court can even see instances of over voting. In a situation like that, the Supreme Court can even cancel the result. They should remove those results that border on fraud because over voting is a clear case of fraud. Where you have more vote more than those who were legally accredited, is a clear case of fraud.
And fraud is one of the elements the Supreme Court can rely on to set aside its own judgment. So, I will say that the Supreme Court has been afforded this opportunity to redeem its image and to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the judiciary because the way the scenario is playing out put into question the integrity and impartiality of the apex court in the land.
Amotekun has generated a lot of heat. Some say the South West governors’ action was a road map to fragmentation of Nigeria. What do you have to say on this?
The truth is that Amotekun has brought to fore the alleged, hypocrisy of the Nigerian Federation. By virtue of section 14(2 ) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) the security and welfare of Nigeria are the primary function, primary duty of all the strata of government from the federal ,through the state to the local government. So, that section says that the welfare and security of people shall be the primary focus of government.
That is the mere fact that you have a government, the mere fact that a government shall exist , the mere fact that the people shall agree to subject themselves to acts of government, means that government shall secure their lives and properties. And if government fails to secure the lives and property of the citizens then, there is no use to the existence of government.
So I will say that the way and manner , the Federal Government reacted, the way and manner the Miyetti Allah reacted to the Amotekun issue portrays the obvious fact that the Federal Government is not telling Nigerians the truth.