October 1, 2023

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Guber Contest: Fresh Tension in A’Ibom Over Eno, Okon’s Fresh Supreme Court Case *Serving, Ex-Minister, Others Show Interest

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A former minister from Akwa Ibom State as well as a serving minister from another part of the country are said to be showing more than a passing interest in the pre-election case involving Pastor Umo-Eno, governor-elect of Akwa Ibom State and Mr Akan Okon, a governorship aspirant under the PDP. The case is to be heard afresh by the Supreme Court.

After the apex court announced the decision to hear the case de novo, a very top government official was said to have initiated moves for a meeting with Okon, where he was to name his terms to end the case, but Okon was said to have insisted that the meeting would hold in his village, a decision that did not go down well with the officials.

The decision by the apex court to revisit the case followed the discovery after judgement had been passed by the Supreme Court, that the exhibits filed at the court below in Uyo, were not transmitted to the appellate court, before the court ruled on the matter.

It was under the same circumstance that that the Supreme Court sat and heard the case, and gave judgement against Okon and even fined him N5million.

When it was discovered that something fundamental had gone wrong, after a petition had been lodged before the NJC, the commission was said to have ordered that the case be re-assigned to a different panel for fresh hearing.

The situation is said to have unsettled Eno and even the out-going governor, Udom Emmanuel. There has been panic, that the case may go either way. While a date for the hearing is yet to be confirmed by the apex court, the fear is that what happened in Bayelsa in 2019, on the eve of the swearing-in of then governor-elect, may happen in Akwa Ibom, if the apex court rules in favour of Okon.

TNN learnt on Thursday that some top officials of the state government and even the PDP and its campaign team have not been sleeping well since the apex court decided to hear the case again.

An activist and lawyer who has been following the case said: “It was discovered lately that the Federal High Court, Uyo registry failed, neglected and refused to forward the exhibits on record to the court of appeal Calabar, after counsel to both parties had settled the records to be so transmitted.

“The court of appeal Calabar Division, on that note, did not transfer exhibits to the Court of Appeal Abuja Division which heard the appeal. The Abuja division of the court of appeal went ahead to hear the appeal without opportunity to re-evaluate the entire evidence on record which is the duty of the first appellate court, which failure to see and evaluate the exhibits on record occasioned miscarriage of justice in its judgment delivered on 19 January 2023.

“It was only on 6th February 2023 that exhibits on record were transmitted to the court of appeal three weeks after Judgment. This was against the clear provisions of Order 7 rule 2(d) of the Supreme Court Rules which provides that all relevant exhibits must be transmitted to the appellate court. It is also a fundamental principle of substantive and adjectival law that an appellate court’s duty is to re-evaluate the entire evidence (including exhibits) on record to arrive at a just decision.

“In the absence of evidence to re-evaluate, the entire judgment becomes a nullity. And where the supreme court per incarium or inadvertently affirmed a null Judgment of the court below, it is ground to recall the case and set it aside. See Barrister Oriker Jev & Ors. v. Iyortom & Ors. [2015] NWLR (Pt. 1483) 484, Olorunfemi v. Asho (1999) (unreported)


“It is settled law that the supreme court has the powers by inherent jurisdiction conferred on it by section 6(6)(a) of the Nigeria constitution 1999 (as altered), to revisit its previous decision, rehear it, and reverse the decision if found perverse and that injustice had been occasioned thereby. See Oriker Jev (supra).


“Failure to transmit the exhibits to the court of appeal and the supreme court also violates Mr Akan Okon’s inherent human rights of Audi Alterem partem secured under section 36 (1) of the Nigerian constitution. It is trite law that any judicial decision taken in violation of the Audi Alterem rule is illegal, null and void, and ex debito justitiae liable to be set aside. See  Peterside V. IMB (Nig.) Ltd, (1993)2 NWLR (Pt. 278) 712.


“Section 22 of the Supreme Court  Act (hereinafter, the Act),  empowers the apex court to rehear a case afresh as if it is the trial court where it deems that the courts below did not do justice in the matter.


Hence, Mr. Akan Okon’s application has been assigned to a different set of the panel of Judges of the supreme court to rehear it as if de Novo, under section 22 of the Act.”

One of Okon’s aides told TNN on grounds of anonymity that the apex court would meet and dispense justice on the matter.

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