By Eric Elezuo
“This court has a duty of redeeming its image, it is against this background that the finality of the court cannot extinguish the right of any person.
“I am of the view that this application should succeed. I hereby make an order repealing the decision of this court made on January 14 and that the certificate of return issued to the appellant returned to INEC.
“I also make an order restoring the respondents as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election,” Justice Centus Nweze
History books will remember him as a dissenter. Members of the seven man panel of justices that sat over the application for review filed by deposed Governor of Imo State, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, will remember him as a rebel without a cause. The jury world will remember him for one thing or another based on which side of the divide they are, and more importantly, on common sense and conscience. However, the general public will remember him as one who defiled all odds to walk his talk; stood alone, and proclaimed the truth as he saw and experienced it.
Leaning on foremost jurist, late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa’s assessment that ‘We are final not because we are infallible, rather we are infallible because we are final’, Justice Chima Centus Nweze, carved a niche for himself as he judicially cut himself off the general opinion of his other colleagues to give a landmark personal judgment.
Nweze disagreed with the majority ruling of his six colleagues, and gave a dissenting judgment in the application filed by Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Ihedioha had asked the apex court to set aside its judgment on Imo governorship that declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governor of Imo State.
The former governor was earlier declared the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He and the PDP approached the court after the apex court on January 14 nullified his victory and declared Mr Uzodinma as the winner of the election.
His grounds for appealing the Supreme Court’s decision included the claim that Mr Uzodinma deceived the Supreme Court with his self-tabulated results from 388 polling units, and that based on the results accepted by the Supreme Court, the number of voters in the Imo governorship election outnumber the accredited voters for the election, a situation that would ordinarily invalidate an election.
In his dissenting judgment, Justice Nweze held that a judgment or order can be set aside on merit. He said the apex court has the power to overrule itself and has done so in the past.
“The decision of the Supreme Court in the instant matter will continue to haunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come,” he finalised.
Approved as a Supreme Court Justice in 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, and sworn in by Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Nweze was born on September 25, 1958, and hails from Obollo, Udenu Local Government Area, Enugu State, Eastern Nigeria. Prior to becoming a justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Nweze was a Justice of the Nigerian Courts of Appeal.
A devout Christian of the Roman Catholic sect, Nweze began his educational sojourn at Nsukka where he attended St John Cross Seminary from 1972 -1977, emerging with a Distinction in the West African School Certificate Examination, WASCE.
Between 1979 and 1983, he studied Law at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, and his final year in 1983, he represented all Nigerian Law Faculties at the Phillip Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in Washington DC, as the Chief Oralist. He also obtained an LLM and a doctorate in the same university years later.
Nweze was called to the Nigerian bar in 1984 and served as a youth corps member in Bauchi between 1984 and 1985. A prolific legal practitioner, it took him only 10 years to get elevated to the High Court Bench of Enugu State.
While on the High Court Bench, he served as Chairman, Second Robbery and Firearms Tribunal, Enugu State, 1996 -1998; Chairman, Robbery and Firearms Tribunal, Nsukka, 1998 -1999; Member, Ondo State Local Government Election Petition Tribunal, 1999; Chairman, Ogun State Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Petition Tribunal, 1999; Administrative Judge, Nsukka Judicial Division, Enugu State, 2001.
On February 15, 2008, he was appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, and served in that capacity until October 29, 2014, when he was, finally, elevated to Nigeria’s apex court as a Justice of the Supreme Court.
An author and co-authored of many books, Nweze has also won many laurels in the cause of his duties, some of which are the Nancy Pelosi Congressional Award, 2015; Distinguished Scholarship Awardee, Golden Gate University, San Fransisco, California, USA; Justice of the Year Award, 1997; Rotary International District 1940 Award, Rotaract Club, UNEC; Award for Professional Service, 1998.
He also won the Dignity of Man Award, UNN Alumni Association, 2001; and Award for Excellence, Law Students’ Association, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka among many others.
Justice Newze is married to Justice Ugonne Jacinta Nweze of the Enugu State Judiciary. They are blessed with five children and a grandchild.
The jurist’s judgment may have been over ruled by the majority consisting six others of his colleagues, Nweze is an example of an idea that is focused and does not necessarily flow with the crowd for the sake of it. H eis an embodiment of boldness, straightforwardness and exemplary career figure.
Congratulations sir! You are our Boss of the Week.