Barely a week after both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo decried incessant delays in justice delivery, the Supreme Court has slammed a two-year adjournment on a 16-year-old case awaiting its verdict on a 2016 Sokoto Court of Appeal judgment.
In the process, the Supreme Court also took the unprecedented step of suspending its scheduled motion/hearing on the case to await the Sokoto Court of Appeal decision on a fresh motion filed before it on the matter, thereby reversing the priority accorded courts of superior jurisdiction over lower courts.
These decisions were taken on November 29, 2021 by the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola when, instead of proceeding with the business of the day to take a motion on substitution of deceased kingmakers/hearing on the appeal filed by the Kebbi State Government against the Sokoto Court of Appeal which nullified the deposition of 19th Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji AlMustapha Haruna Jokolo, and ordered his reinstatement as far back as April 2016, opted to suspend its proceedings while the lower Court of Appeal, Sokoto decides on a fresh appeal filed by one of appellants.
Justices on the panel were Olukayode Ariwoola, Amina Augie, John Inyang Okoro, Abdu Aboki and Emmanuel Agim.
The sitting was for the court to hear a motion for substitution of the names of deceased kingmakers in the three appeals marked SC2/2013 (Attorney-General of Kebbi State and others against Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo); SC314/2016(Alhaji Muhammadu Iliyasu Bashar against Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo & anor); and SC266/2017(Governor of Kebbi State and others against Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo. The briefs for the appeals were filed in 2019 and consolidated.
Justice Ariwoola enquired to know which of the three appeals the panel was to hear, so that judgement on it would be binding on the two other appeals.
But Yakubu Maikyau SAN, counsel for the Governor of Kebbi State, informed the panel that he has an appeal challenging jurisdiction at the Court of Appeal Sokoto Division. At this stage, the apex court decided to stay it’s proceeding in view of the appeal at the court below.
HRH Jokolo was deposed in 2005 and he promptly went to court to challenge his dethronement.
In 2014, a Kebbi State High Court 6, sitting in Birnin Kebbi, ordered his immediate reinstatement, having been satisfied he was illegally deposed.
In his ruling, the presiding judge, Justice Abbas Ahman said the deposition was contrary to law and that due process was not followed.
Not satisfied with the judgement, Kebbi State Government and Jokolo’s successor, filed an appeal challenging the decision of the Kebbi State High Court.
In a unanimous judgement passed in April 2016, the three judges of the appellate court led by Justice Tunde Awotoye held that the 2005 deposition of the Emir by the then Governor of the state, Senator Adamu Aliero contravened sections 6 and 7 of the Chief Appointment and Deposition Law of the State because the Governor neither made an inquiry into the allegation against the Emir nor consulted the Kebi State’s Council of Chiefs before arriving at his decision.
The Kebbi State Government and Jokolo’s successor approached the Supreme Court for a final decision.
Specifically, the appeals before the Supreme Court are aimed at reviewing the verdicts of the two lower courts to affirm or deny that Kebbi State Government contravened section 6 and 7 of the Chief Appointment and Deposition Law of the state because the governor neither made an inquiry into the allegation against the Emir nor consulted the state’s council of chiefs before arriving at his decision.