The real truth behind the victory of Hope Uzodinma of Imo State

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A Supreme Court staff has revealed what transpired that led to the declaration of Hope Uzodinma as the Governor Elect of Imo State by the Supreme Court. According to the source, the immediate past Governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha in alliance with APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole doled out 1.8 billion Naira to compromise the Supreme Court Judges. The source revealed that each of the 6 judges received 230 million Naira; while the CJN received 400 million. The secret meetings were held in December ahead of Supreme Court Case on IMO state Governorship on 13th January, 2020. Also according to the source, when APC national body saw their chances of overcoming Ihedioha at the apex court was slim, given the recent ruling of the Supreme Court in Atiku vs Buhari case. It was obvious to them that the fictitious results being paraded by their Candidate, Hope Uzodinma will be difficult to prove as authentic and accurate at the apex court, a deal was made to reintegrate Senator Okorocha back to APC by lifting his suspension from the party . The conditions were that he Senator Okorocha will release fund that will help the party to make a comprising deal with identified Supreme Court Judges and also for him to instruct his son in-law to withdraw his case and align himself behind APC at the Supreme Court. The second part of the deal that all his sins and opposition against the party during election will be forgiven and his interests in Imo State will be protected. After the agreement was made, Senator Okorocha agreed the make funds available as agreed (1.5 billion)and judges who are to do the dirty job in Imo State were approached with initially stated amount (230 million). The CJN was given 400 million to systematically replace judges who were previously scheduled to hear the Imo State Election case and replace the with APC chosen judges. The deal with the Supreme Court Judges according to the source was to accept the fake results presented by Hope Uzodinma and use it to declare him Governor Elect of Imo State on the premise that once pronouncement is made, it is final. This is the reason why the Supreme Court Judges did not look into the validity and authenticity of results or invite witnesses, by making their pronouncement, declaring Hope Uzodinma duly elected Governor of Imo State the source revealed.

Oho ruled: “It is also clear on the record that after the Appellants had explicitly set out in the Petition a schedule of all the polling unit results, which were allegedly excluded from collation at ward level by the 3rd Respondent (INEC), they led evidence through several witnesses to prove their case as contained in the Petition, by showing that, if those excluded votes scored by the 1st Appellant and those scored by the 1st Respondent (Ihedioha) in the 388 polling units are added to their respective scores of 96,458 and 258,259 votes, as declared by the 3rd Respondent (INEC), the outcome will show that the 1st Appellant (Uzodinma) won the Governorship election held in Imo State on the 9th of March, 2019 as the 1st Appellant’s votes will amount to a total of 310,153 votes whiles the 1st Respondent’s score will be a total of 260,162 votes.”

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL  ABUJA JUDICIAL DIVISION  HELD AT ABUJA ON TUESDAY THE 19th DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2019

BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS

OYEBISI F. OMOLEYE/JUSTICE, COURT OF APPEAL

STEPHEN J. ADAH/JUSTICE, COURT OF APPEAL

FREDERICK O. OHO/JUSTICE, COURT OF APPEAL

BALKISU B. ALIYU/JUSTICE, COURT OF APPEAL

ABUBAKAR M. LAMIDO/JUSTICE, COURT OF APPEAL

APPEAL NO: CA/OW/EPT/GOV/5/2019

BETWEEN APPELLANTS:

1. SENATOR HOPE UZODINMA

2. ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS (APC)

AND RESPONDENTS:

1. RT. HON. EMEKA IHEDIOHA

2. PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP)

3. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC)

DISSENTING JUDGMENT (DELIVERED BY FREDERICK O. OHO, JCA)

This Appeal and Cross Appeal is a fallout of the Judgment of the Governorship Election Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as “the tribunal”) sitting at Owerri Imo State, Nigeria and delivered on the 21st September, 2019 dismissing the Appellants’ Petition and upholding the election and return of the 1st Respondent by the 3rd Respondent as the Governor of Imo State following the Governorship Election conducted by the 3rd Respondent on the 9th March, 2019. The 1st Appellant and the 1st  Respondent were the candidates of the 1st  Appellant and the 2nd  Respondent respectively, in the said election. There were sixty-eight (68) other candidates who also participated in the election.

Dissatisfied with the declaration and return of the 1st Respondent in the said election, the Appellants on 30th March, 2019 presented a petition questioning the said return on two main grounds namely, that:

1.    The 1st Respondent was not validly elected by majority of lawful votes cast and;

2.    The declaration and return of the 1st Respondent is invalid by reason of non- compliance with the Electoral Act. The reliefs Claimed in the Petition include nullification of the 1st Respondent and declaration of the 1st Appellant as the winner of the said election. (See pages 33-35 of Vol. 1 of the record).

Dissatisfied once again with the said judgment of the tribunal, the Appellants have appealed to this Court vide Notice of Appeal filed on 10thday of October, 2019. The said Notice of Appeal is at pages 3077 – 3114 of the Record of Appeal (thereinafter referred to as “the record”) while the judgment, the subject of this Appeal is at pages 2919 – 3064 of Vol. 4 of the record.

The gravamen of the case of the Appellants in a nutshell is that election held in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State; the 305 Electoral Wards and 3,523 polling units and that at the conclusion of the election, the 3rd Respondent collated results from 2,883 polling units; excluded results from 388 polling units and cancelled election results in 252 polling units. In addition, that the Appellants scored overwhelming majority in the 388 polling units, the result whereof the 3rd Respondent excluded from ward collation results (Forms EC8B) tendered as Exhibits in this case. It is also the case of the Appellants that the total votes due to the Appellants but unlawfully excluded from the polling units listed at pages 9 -27 of Vol. 1 of the Record is 213,695, while the 1st Respondent is entitled to 1,903 votes from the same 388 polling units.

Part of the case of the Appellants also is ‘that the 273,404 votes credited to the 1st Respondent from the result collated from 2,883 polling units across 27 Local Government Areas set out at pages 6 – 7 of Vol. 1 of the record of the Petition, is fraught with arithmetical errors and that a re-computation of same, based on polling unit results given to party agents (which results were tendered by the 1st Respondent), show that the actual score due to the 1st Respondent from the result declared in the 27 Local Government Areas of the State is 216,271 and not 273,404 wrongly declared by the 3rd Respondent and that it is upon this incorrect figure that the 1st Respondent was returned.

Apart from these, the Appellants also pleaded that not only did the 1stRespondent not score the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election, but also that he did not satisfy the mandatory Constitutional threshold requirement of spread across the state in that he did not score at least one-quarter of the total votes cast in two-thirds of the Local Government Areas of Imo State. (See page 5 of Vol. 1 of the record). There were other instances of non-compliance and irregularities pleaded by the Appellants. In response to this Petition, the Respondents separately filed their Replies to the Petition.

In seeking to prove their petition, the Appellants called 54 witnesses and tendered series of Forms EC8A, EC8B, EC8C, EC8D, and EC8E among other documents, while the 1stRespondent in his defence, tendered CTC of Forms, EC8A, EC8B, EC8C, and EC8D, and called four witnesses namely; RW1, RW2, RW3 and RW4. The 2nd Respondent called one witness, RW5, the INEC Officer in charge of logistics during the election.

SUBMISSIONS OF COUNSEL:  APPELLANTS:

ISSUE ONE:

Issue no. 1 is argued at pages 3-10 of the Appellants’ brief of argument to the effect that the tribunal erred in law when it expunged the evidence of PW54 and Exhibits PPP1-PPP366 tendered by him on the ground that he lacked the “competence” and “authority” to testify and tender the said exhibits. Under this issue, the Appellants challenged the portion of the judgment appealed against in which the tribunal reversed its ruling of 31stJuly, 2019 in which it had held that PW54 was competent to give evidence and tender the documents listed in the subpoena (Exhibits NNN1 – NNN18) served on him. The issue also questions the decision of the tribunal expunging the oral and documentary evidence of the said PW54 on the grounds that he had no competence and authority to give evidence and tender the documents tendered by him as he was on a frolic of his own.

Learned Appellant’s Counsel and SAN drew attention to the facts on printed record, which shows that the Appellants, in their bid to establish their case on 20th June, 2019, made an application to the tribunal for the issuance of subpoena on one DCP Rabiu Hussaini AP/No. 36579 of DC DOPS ZN4 Makurdi, Benue State, to be served on him through the office of the Inspector General of Police and that the subpoena commanded the said DCP. Rabiu Hussaini to give evidence on behalf of the Appellants and also to bring with him and tender all Forms EC8A, particularly those used in the polling units listed in the schedule thereto amongst other documents connected with the election in the custody of the Police. (See Pages 2273-2290 of Vol. 3 of the Record for the Appellants’ application for subpoena and the issued subpoena).

Counsel submitted that in obedience to the command of the trial tribunal, PW54 appeared in Court on the 31st July, 2019 and that the Respondents took objection to the competence of the PW54 to give evidence in the Petition notwithstanding the position of the law on the matter. According to Counsel, the tribunal took argument on the objection and in a well-considered decision, overruled the Respondents. (See pages 2601-2609 of Vol. 4 of the Record). This Court was told that pursuant to the said ruling, the PW54 gave evidence to the effect that he is a Police Officer and the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations Imo State Police Command and that he was in Imo State on the 9th of March, 2019 when the election was conducted. He said that as a Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, he set up general operations order for the conduct of the election. The witness also said that the operation order entails the general working capacity of the police officers who were deployed to various polling units, according to the operation order in all the polling units as provided by INEC. He said that he was issued a subpoena to produce documents and also to give evidence. (See pages 2596-2597 of the Vol. 4 of the Record)

Learned Counsel brought to this Court’s attention the fact that the tribunal admitted a copy of the subpoena tendered by PW54 and marked same as Exhibit NNN1-NNN18, whereupon the PW54, further testified that in Exhibits NNN1 to NNN18, he was asked to produce 388 Forms EC8As received by police officers who were posted to the said polling units. He told the tribunal that he had some of the Forms and not all 388 Forms. He also said that the Forms he brought, he ticked in Exhibits NNN1 to NNN18 and that the total number he brought was 368 as he could not lay his hands on the other 20 Forms. (See pages 2.597-2.598 Vol. 4 of the Record).

Learned Counsel told Court that the Forms were admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibits PPP1 – PPP366. (See page 2598 of Vol. 4 of the Record) and that although the PW54 was rigorously cross-examined by Counsel to the Respondents, no one questioned the identity of PW54 which was well-spelt out in Exhibits NNN1 – NNN18. But to his surprise in its judgment, the trial tribunal made a U-turn with respect to the evidence adduced by PW54 when it held as follows:

“We find no difficulty in concluding that PW54 has no authority whatsoever to have testified and tender, the said Forms EC8A, Exhibits PPP1 to PPP366. At least this tribunal did not see any evidence of such an authority. It is the view of this tribunal that PW54 DCP Rabiu Hussaini was definitely on a frolic of his own when he testified before this tribunal and tendered Exhibits PPP1 to PPP366.” (See page 3039 of Vol. 4 of the Record).

Learned Counsel submitted that it was at this stage that the tribunal then proceeded to expunge the evidence of PW54, including Exhibits PPP1 – PPP 366 as having been “wrongly” admitted in evidence thereby reversing its earlier ruling of 31st July, 2019 in which it held that PW54 was competent to testify and would be allowed to testify “in the interest of justice.” According to learned Counsel, the trial tribunal reached this decision on the erroneous ground that the “subpoena on the strength of which, PW54 testified and  tendered Exhibits PPP1 –  PPP366 was addressed to the Inspector General of Police in Abuja” and that, “There is no indication that the said document was received by the office of the Inspector General of Police in Abuja where it was addressed to as there is no stamp or signature or name of any person who received it there.” (See pages 3038 of Vol. 4 of the Record). Against the backdrop of this position, Counsel submitted that the aforesaid reasoning and conclusion is against the hard facts on the record as it is not correct that the subpoenaed exhibits NNN1 – NNN18 was addressed to the Inspector General of Police rather, and on the contrary and as shown clearly on the face of the document, it was addressed “to DCP Rabiu Hussaini AP/NO/36579 DCDOPS ZN4 Makurdi Benue State” (See pages 22.73 of Vol. 3 of the Record). It was further submitted that at page 2572 volume 4 of the record is a copy of the subpoena duly stamped, received and dated 24th June, 2019 indicating that it was received in the office of the Inspector General of Police as well and that the tribunal was therefore not correct to have held that: “There is no indication that the said document was received by the office of the Inspector General of Police in Abuja…” (See page3038 of Vol. 4 of the record).

Counsel also submitted that in assuming, but without conceding that the subpoena was handed over directly to the PW54, to whom it was addressed without doing so through the office of the Inspector General of Police as earlier conceived, such procedure will not vitiate the service on PW54, who is the only person that can complain of improper service in the first instance. Counsel argued that the purpose of serving any Court process including subpoena, is to notify the person to whom the command is directed, of the command contained in the process and for that person to act as directed by the authority issuing the process. He said that the command is obeyed once the person commanded appears in Court as was done by PW54 in this case.

Learned Counsel also contended that in its ruling of 31st July, 2019, the tribunal held that PW54 was competent to give evidence on the basis of the subpoena served on him. Counsel also referred to page 120 of the tribunal’s judgment, where the tribunal acknowledged the identity of PW54 as clearly defined in the Exhibits NNN1

– NNN18 when it held: “It is to be noted that PW54 Deputy Commissioner of Police Rabiu Hassaini was subpoenaed to tender documents Forms EC8A given to the police that were posted to the various polling units during the 9th of  March,  2019 Governorship Election in Imo State. The said subpoena that was tendered in evidence through PW54 and was admitted as ‘Exhibits NNN1 to NNN18…” (See page 3038 of Vol. 4 of the Record).

Given the above clear description of PW54 by the tribunal, Counsel argued that the tribunal cannot be right to now hold that the identity of the PW54 was in issue. He also contended that the tribunal also erred in elevating the absence of the authority of the IGP for PW54 to testify above the lower tribunal’s own command contained in the said subpoena, i.e. Exhibits NNN1- NNN18.

Learned Counsel pointed out that, in addition to the name, rank and address of PW54 clearly set out in Exhibits NNN1-NNN18, PW54’s Force Number is also disclosed as “AP/NO/36579” (See page 2273 of Vol. 3 of the Record) and that he was never cross-examined on the aforesaid particulars; that the Respondents also did not call any witness to challenge the testimony of PW54 as to his personal particulars as supplied on oath to the tribunal. According to Counsel, the tribunal surprisingly ignored the unchallenged evidence on the identity of the PW54 placed before it and opted to act on speculations.

Counsel further contended that the tribunal failed to appreciate that relevancy is the primary consideration in the determination of admissibility especially in the instant case, where parties agreed on the holding of an election but differ on the issue of exclusion and the authenticity of the results relied upon by the Appellants. In such a situation, he said that copies of the results given to the Police represent the in-built mechanism in our electoral law for discovering where the truth lies.

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According to learned Counsel, it is now settled law that “… because election matters are sui generis, election result forms given to police officers are admissible in evidence notwithstanding that they were not the makers of such documents and it did not matter whether such documents were sought to be tendered by policemen other than the actual policemen that were given copies of such results …” See the cases of UCHE vs. IGWE & ORS, (2012) LPELR – 14439 PAGES 36-37; NNADI vs. EZIKE (1999) 10 NWLR (PT. 622) 229; OMOBORIOWO vs. AJASIN (1984) 1 SCNLR 10 and ADEBAYO vs. MAIYAKI (1991) 1 LRECN 1.

Sen. Hope Uzodinma in the National Assembly

I just hope we are in the right track here in Nigeria.

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