(1) RESTATING THE SUPREMACY OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION,
(2) CLEAR ADUMBERATION ON THE FINALITY OF THE JUDGEMENT OF THE SUPREME COURT, AND
(3) UPHOLDING THE DOCTRINE OF STARE DECISIS
The 3rd March 2020 judgement of the Supreme Court dismissing the application for review of its 14th January 2020 judgement in the Imo Governorship election petition matter has inter alia achieved three significant and commendable things.
⚖ Firstly, it restated the supremacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as clearly spelt out in section 1(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended to the effect that-
This Constitution is
supreme and its
provisions shall have
binding force on the
the Federal Republic
By this judgement therefore, the Supreme Court has openly demonstrated, both as an institution and as the topmost echelon of the judicial arm of government, that it is not above the Constitution as it has shown itself irrevocably bound by the constitutional provisions.
⚖ Secondly, with this judgement, the finality of the judgement of the Supreme Court becomes reinforced and reconfirmed.
The Supreme Court is the terminus ad quem or the final bus stop, in a layman’s language.
That ill-fated application for review was a worrisome one for the obvious reason that, overtime, the Supreme Court had in a plethora of cases held that it cannot sit on appeal over its judgement.
This is anchored on the unambiguous provision of section 235 of the 1999 Constitution that judgements of the Supreme Court are final and appeals can not lie elsewhere.
Out of abundant caution, the clear provision of section 235 of the 1999 Constitution as amended is as follows:
Without prejudice to the powers of the President or of the Governor of a state with respect to prerogative of mercy, no appeal shall lie to any other body or person from any determination of the Supreme Court.
Based on the foregoing, the judgement of the Supreme Court under consideration has restated very clearly that no constitutional provision empowers the Supreme Court to sit on appeal over its own judgement and that the much touted inherent power of the Court does not negate the provision of section 235 of the 1999 Constitution as amended on the finality of the judgement of the Supreme Court.
In its majority judgement, the Supreme Court was emphatic that the inherent power of the court confers no competence on the apex court to review its final judgement as to make it sit on appeal over a matter it had disposed of.
⚖ On a third and commendable fringe, that application for review presented by PDP and her sacked Imo governorship candidate threatened a settled line of legal reasoning with respect to the doctrine of stare decisis which obligates the courts to “stand by previous decisions and not to disturb the undisturbed”.
Now, that the Supreme Court has judicially settled the law on the subject matter, all earlier or previous conflicting decisions or confusing judgements on the matter will stand down.
Trite and settled laws aid certainty of the law as a science.
Going forward, doubts will no longer exist whether Supreme Court is still the end of final judgement- finis ultimi judicii reservantur.
Based on the doctrine of res judicata, it can be said that this judgement of the Supreme Court rejecting the review application “averted a calamity on its supremacy” because obliging such a request for review could have opened a floodgate of ancient and modern review applications.
Jurisprudentially, it is most welcome in legal and academic circles that the Imo guber review application hit brick wall as it was a clear unreasonable invitation for the Supreme Court to disobey the constitution by sitting on appeal over a matter it had disposed of and contrary to established doctrine of stare decisis or judicial precedents.
Justice has been served and clearly too.
Let justice be done, the heavens will not fall… Fiat justitia ruat caelum!
Prof Obiaraeri, N.O., Ph.D (Law), B.L., etc.