4 Mar 2020

Ihedioha v Uzodinma (2020) "Not Only Must Justice Be Done; It Must Also Be Seen To Be Done."

In Ihedioha v Uzodinma (2020), the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that it cannot overturn its own decision. According to the Court, its decision is final whether there were errors.

It is not because Ihedioha’s application has no merit, but that if they overturn their decision, it “would open the floodgate of similar applications”.

This means; even if there’s a new evidence that a man sentenced to death is now innocent, the Supreme Court of Nigeria will not overturn its decision.

The Justices will rather allow an innocent man to die than overturn their earlier decision, which “would open the floodgate of similar applications”.

But the Supreme Court can fine lawyers who brought frivolous applications to the Court like they fined the Lawyers in the Bayelsa case.

Remarkably, Ihedioha’s lawyers were not fined even though their application was declined. That shows that Ihedioha’s case had merit than the Bayelsa’s.

However, the US Supreme Court has overturned more than 200 of its own decisions. - CNN  The US is home of democracy and rule of law. If the US Supreme Court deemed it necessary to overturn more than 200 of its own decisions, it means that a Supreme court can truly overturn its decision.

Moreover, in R v Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy ([1924] 1 KB 256, [1923] All ER Rep 233), “in a landmark and far-reaching judgement”, Lord Hewart CJ stated that “it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

“The ruling is derived from the principle of natural justice and has been followed throughout the world in countries that use the English legal system.” - Wikipedia

Even in the Pinochet case the House of Lords overturned its own decision on the grounds of Lord Hoffman's conflict of interest. That conflict of interest tainted their decision. And because justice “should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” they overturned their decision.

The House Of Lords was the highest Court in the United Kingdom until the establishment of the UK Supreme Court in 2009.

Nigeria uses the English legal system, hence, why didn’t the Supreme Court follow the precedent set in this matter while entertaining Ihedioha’s application?

Anyway, “Justice Chima Centus Nweze, in a dissenting tone, maintained that the Supreme Court had the inherent power to revisit its judgment, and asked his colleagues to do so in the interest of justice.

Justice Nweze stated that Uzodinma misled the court to accept the results of the election from his angle. Uzodinma presented his case without the record of accredited voters. And there were over 129,340 votes in excess of accredited voters. The judgment that declared Uzodinma winner was entered in error.” - TheGuardian

In the Pinochet case, the House of Lords overturned their decision when they became aware of Lord Hoffman’s conflict of interest, which they weren’t aware before their ruling.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria should also have overturned their decision in Ihedioha’s case when it became apparent that their judgment for Uzodinma was apparently entered in error, as enumerated by Justice Nweze.

Lord Hewart CJ statement that justice “should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” means that justice tainted with doubts is justice denied.

In dismissing Ihedioha’s application, considering that there were 129,340 votes in excess of accredited voters, together with other anomalies; the Supreme Court of Nigeria cannot say that justice was done; manifestly and undoubtedly seen to be done in Ihedioha v Uzodinma (2020).

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