By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ogwu Onoja has said lawyers should be held responsible for concealment of fact that led to the conflicting judgments which trailed the recent rerun election in Anambra Central Senatorial District.
It would be recalled that Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja had in a consent judgment in December 2017, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to issue Certificate of Return to Dr. Obiora Okonkwo as the winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial seat.
However, INEC through its counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), filed an application before the court, urging it to vary its earlier judgment which ordered INEC to issue Certificate of Return to Okonkwo. This was on the ground that the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had in November last year ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election into the District within 90 days.
When the subsisting order of the Appeal Court was brought to the knowledge of Justice Tsoho through the INEC application, the judge on January 12, reversed himself by setting aside the earlier judgment he delivered; thereby clearing the way for INEC’s conduct of the January 13 rerun poll.
A former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and candidate of the Party for the rescheduled Anambra Central Senatorial rerun election, Chief Victor Umeh, had criticised the ruling by Justice Tsoho, which directed the INEC, to issue certificate of return to Okonkwo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the senator–elect for Anambra Central District.
However, in a chat with the Authority, the Learned Silk, absolved Justice Tsoho of any wrongdoing in the said suit.
Onoja stated: “The issue is not with the judge, but the lawyers in the suit; because if a similar matter is not brought to the judge’s attention, he would not know. You know it’s not all judges that read newspapers. So, what must have happened was concealment of facts.
“The lawyers in the suit hid the information from the judge, and immediately the information was brought before the judge, he quickly reversed himself.”
He called for a more efficient way of making judgments and rulings available to judges, so as to avert the embarrassing issue of conflicting verdicts.
“Knowledge and awareness of the law is very important. There should be a way of circulating such critical judgments to judges through electronic mails. That way, the judge can suo-moto (of his own motion) cite it because it is an issue of law. The judge can use it to decide his case without its being cited to him,” Onoja noted.