Eight interlocutory appeals arising from the April 15th 2014 Court of Appeal decisions on the Anambra State Governorship election, petitions were this morning, struck out by the Supreme Court of Nigeria for being ‘patently academic and hypothetical’.
The Court, presided over by Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, with six other justices at the resumed hearing of the appeals this morning, raised suo motu the propriety of continuing with the appeals having regard to the news broadcast they heard, the previous night, on the Nigerian Television Authority network news program, that the Tribunal in Awka had dismissed all the petitions. The justices sought to know from the lawyers whether the apex court could still go on with the appeals, after the tribunal had rushed to deliver final judgments on the matters.
First to respond was Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN who appeared for APGA candidate, Willie Obiano. Obiano had 6 out of the 8 appeals. Ikpeazu agreed with the justices that the appeals had become academic even though his client would have wished that the appeals had gone on.
In his reaction, counsel to Senator Chris Ngige and All Progressives Congress (APC) who were cross-appellants in the matter, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN also agreed that the appeals and cross-appeal had been rendered academic and hypothetical. He also observed that what the tribunal did in Awka, by rushing to deliver judgments ahead of the Supreme Court sitting had brought to the fore the wisdom of the lawmakers in enacting paragraph 12(5) of Electoral Act which stipulates that all objections be heard together with the substantive action and a composite decision dealing with all issues duly embodied the judgment.
A similar view was expressed by the counsel to the APGA, Mr. Osita Nnadi. The major surprise in today’s proceedings was the appearance of the son of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, John Mofolorunsho Mustapha Majiyagbe, who announced his appearance for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof Onukaogu.
Judicial watchers were surprised that the lawyer who neither appeared at the tribunal, nor at the court of appeals, would suddenly appear for INEC at the Supreme Court which his mother heads. Sources close to the Anambra State Government indicate that the move to hire Mr. Majiyagbe as counsel for the INEC was ‘a smart move’ to compromise the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Miriam Aloma Mukthar, who by virtue of her office oversees all appeals that come to the Supreme Court.
It was learned that the scheme was hatched by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN (a former INEC resident electoral commissioner), Mr. Pius Anyim, Secretary to the Federal Government, and the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi.
It was also learned that Mr. Majiyagbe already had been paid the sum of N150 Million by the Presidency as part payment for the brief. With her son’s appearance in the matter, the CJN has been effectively bought over to the side of Presidency in the legal tussle. SaharaReporters learned that this strategy in which a lawyer close to the Obiano camp described it as a ‘matter stroke,’ was first deployed by the Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, of Ondo State, in the legal tussle arising from the Ondo State Governorship election in 2013.
After ‘winning’ at the election tribunal, and at the Court of Appeals, Governor Mimiko, on the advice of Chief Awomolo, and Ahmed Raji, had engaged the services of Mr. Majiyagbe as the INEC counsel in the appeal filed by Chief Olusola Oke, of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Like in the Anambra matter, Majiyagbe did not appear at the trial tribunal or at the court of appeals, before he suddenly emerged and became the INEC counsel at the Supreme Court. As soon as the CJN’s son announced his appearance in the matter, the justices who sat in the panel, got the signal on where the pendulum of justice would swing.
Consequently, the appeals of Chief Sola Oke, and that of the former President of the NBA, Mr. Akeredolu, were summarily dismissed by the justices for being ‘bereft of any iota of merit.’
With this development, even though the interlocutory appeals in Anambra matter were struck out today for “being academic,” the signal has sent to the justices of Court of Appeals, and to the Supreme Court, who would very soon hear the APC and PDP appeals that the deal in the upcoming appeals have now been ‘sealed and delivered’ in favor of APGA and Obiano.
Ms. Miriam Aloma Muktar is due to retire as the CJN in mid-November 2014, by which time the Supreme Court would have determined the Anambra appeals.