Supreme Court Slams N40m Fine Against Mike Ozekhome

The Supreme Court yesterday came hard again on another senior lawyer.

It slammed a N40million cost on Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) for aiding the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the 2019 governorship election in Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, to file what the court termed a frivolous motion.

This comes three years after it fined Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) N30 million each for filing a frivolous application.

In a ruling yesterday, Justice Tijani Abubakar dismissed the motion by Ihedioha and the PDP.

The applicants had prayed the court to set aside its January 14, 2020 judgment replacing Ihedioha with Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the governor.

Justice Abubakar gave the lead ruling by a seven-man panel headed by Justice John Okoro.

In their motion, Ihedioha and the PDP argued that Uzodimma was not validly nominated by the APC to contest the 2019 election.

They urged the court to invalidate the years Uzodimma spent in office as governor.

The applicants were joined as interested parties in an appeal originally filed by Uche Nwosu, who was the governorship candidate of the Action Alliance (AA) in the 2019 election.

Ihedioha and the PDP also urged the Supreme Court to give effect to its 2019 judgment that disqualified Nwosu on the ground that he had dual nomination, having been nominated by both the AA and the APC for the same governorship election.

They argued that since the apex court recognised Nwosu as a candidate of the APC, there was no legal basis for the judgment sacking Ihedioha and declaring Uzodimma (who it also found to have been sponsored by the same APC and for the same election) as the actual winner.

The applicants urged the Supreme Court to restore Ihedioha to office since the APC could not legally sponsor two candidates for the same election.

They argued that since Uzodimma did not contest the election as an independent candidate, there was no basis for him to be recognised as the validly elected governor.

Ihedioha and the PDP argued that there was no rationale for the November 11 governorship election because Ihedioha had yet to conclude his tenure.

When the case came up yesterday, the court noted that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain a motion filed over a governorship election held four years ago.

Members of the court’s panel drew Ozekhome’s attention to the futility of his clients’ efforts and why he should withdraw the motion.

Ozekhome ignored the Justices’ body language and proceeded to move the motion.

But the court dismissed it for being without merit and “highly vexatious and frivolous.”

The Justices awarded a cost of N40 million against Ozekhome. They insisted must he must pay it.

It was not the first time the Supreme Court would censure senior lawyers so heavily.

The Supreme Court, in February 2020, fined Chief Babalola and Chief Olanipekun N30 million each for agreeing to apply for the review of its judgment on the Bayelsa election.

Justice Amina Augie, now retired, announced the fine while reading the lead judgment in the applications for a review of its February 13, 2020 judgment which overturned the APC’s victory in the governorship poll.

With tears in her eyes, the justice regretted that “very senior” lawyers were responsible for filing the applications.

The Supreme Court awarded the costs of N10m to be personally paid by Chief Babalola, who represented David Lyon, and Chief Olanipekun, for APC.

It ruled that each of the SANs must pay N10 million to each of the three respondents – the PDP, Governor Duoye Diri, and the Deputy Governor, Lawrence Ewhruojakpo, bringing the total amount to be paid to N60 million.

Justice Augie said the applications amounted to an inviting the apex court to sit in appeal on its judgment in violation of the Constitution.

A seven-man panel of the apex court led by the late Justice Sylvester Ngwuta described the applications filed by the APC and Lyon as vexatious, frivolous, and constituted a gross abuse of the court process.

Justice Augie held that granting the applications would open a floodgate for the review of decisions of the Supreme Court.

“There must be an end to litigation,” she said, adding, “the decision of the Supreme Court is final for ages in a matter”, adding that only legislation could change it.

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