Appeal court lacks power to correct clerical errors in Kano CTC guber verdict — Olanipekun
The controversy stirred by the contradictions contained in the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Court of Appeal judgement in the Kano State governorship election has yet to settle as Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel to the Kano State governor, Kabir Yusuf, has insisted that the appellate court cannot correct what it claims to be mere clerical errors, contrary to the court’s position.
Olanipekun said on Thursday that the appellate court lacked the powers to effect any correction in the said judgement, having become functus officio in the case.
Recall that the court of appeal had during its judgement last week Friday upheld the verdict of the tribunal, declaring APC candidate, Nasiru Gawuna, as winner of the governorship election in the state.
But when the Certified True Copy of the judgement was released by the court on Tuesday, a number of contradictory declarations in the judgement was observed.
In the final line of the judgement, the court set aside the judgement of the tribunal, which sacked governor Abba Yusuf.
“The judgment of the tribunal In Petition No.: EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023 between: ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) v. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION & 2 ORS. delivered on the 20th day of September, 2023 is hereby set aside,” the CTC of the judgement read
The appellate went further to award the N1,000,0000 cost in favour of the NNPP and against the APC as against its pronouncement.
But when the contradictions sparked national condemnation and suspicion of foul play, the Court of Appeal wrote to the parties, withdrawing the copies.
However, Mr Olanipekun, in a reply to the court’s request, said whether there is error or not in the judgement, the Court of Appeal cannot reverse its decision.
“Your letter dated November 22, 2023, was delivered at our Abuja office late on the same day (November 22, 2023), and was brought to the attention of the undersigned around 10:30 am today, November 23, 2023,” the senior lawyer wrote.
“As officers in the Temple of Justice, we believe we owe the institution, as well as the respected Court of Appeal, a duty to highlight and address some very pertinent issues arising out of your said letter, including, but not limited to:
“Timely Disposal of Appeal: The judgment of the lower Tribunal was delivered on 20th September 2023. By the imperative of section 285(7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Court of Appeal had only sixty (60) days to “hear and dispose” of the appeal arising from the judgment of the Tribunal. Most humbly, the Constitution applies the word “within” and not ‘from’ the date of “the delivery of the judgment of the Tribunal.”
“Constitutional Mandate: Further to the above, the Court of Appeal, by the same constitutional dictate, had up until Saturday, November 18, 2023, to ‘hear and dispose’ of the appeal filed by our client (the appellant) to the Court of Appeal against the decision of the Governorship Election Tribunal, sitting in Kano. Several judicial precedents of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal itself abound in our Law Reports on this subject, which has now become trite.
“Function of the Court: Assuming without conceding that the judgment has some errors, whether typographical or otherwise, we humbly and dutifully draw your attention to the fact that the Court of Appeal became functus officio in the matter on Saturday, November 18, 2023. Any application for correction of errors can only be entertained by the Supreme Court. Section 285(7) of the Constitution earlier referred to becomes very handy and imperative to the effect that the Court of Appeal cannot take any further step in the appeal or subject after the expiration of sixty (60) days.
“Chief Registrar’s Statement: Further to the foregoing, may we draw your attention to what the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Umar Bangari, was quoted to have said by the Channels Television in its news program of 7-8 pm on Wednesday, November 22, 2023, that: “The Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal Mister Umar Bangari, has cleared the air on the controversies surrounding the judgment delivered by the Court on the Kano Governorship Election dispute. In reaction, Bangari said that what happened in the judgment body was a typo error that did not in any way invalidate or change the findings and conclusion of the Court. The Chief Registrar assures that the error would be rectified once parties in the matter file a formal application to that effect. He cited Order 23 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Handbook, which empowers the court to correct any clerical error once detected by the court or any of the parties in the matter.”
“Application for Correction: In the above-quoted excerpts from the interview granted to the Channels Television by the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, the following again becomes very germane “… that the error would be rectified once parties in the matter file a formal application to that effect.” We are not aware that any of the parties has filed any application to correct any error. Even at that, judicial precedents are countless as to the procedure to follow, and which court has jurisdiction to take such an application, after the expiration of the sixty (60) days mandatorily benchmarked by the Constitution.
“Constitutional Right of Appeal: Today is the seventh day, effective from Friday, November 17, 2023, since the delivery of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. We repeat that, out of the fourteen days mandatorily prescribed for our client to file his Notice and Grounds of Appeal to the Supreme Court, he is left with just seven (7) days; and it is only fair that he should be allowed to exercise his constitutional right of appeal without any inhibition, within the fraction of days left for him.
“We reiterate that this response has been borne out of a compelling duty and responsibility to the administration of justice, and, as counsel, it is our responsibility to draw attention to these salient statutory imperatives.”