The Supreme Court has thrown out an appeal filed by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesome Wike, challenging the constitution of the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal Panel.
The Court also upheld the decision of the two lower courts which dismissed Mr Wike’s appeal challenging the relocation of the Tribunal from Rivers State capital to Abuja.
Wike had gone before the Supreme Court to challenge the jurisdiction and competence of the tribunal to conduct hearing on the petition filed against his election by the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its governorship candidate in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, outside Rivers State where the said election held.
His position is that the action of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, in relocating the tribunal to Abuja without due consultation with either the Chief Judge of the state or President of the Customary Court of Appeal, was in breach of Section 285(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act, 2010.Wike-Tribunal
Wike urged the apex court to declare that former chairman of the tribunal, Justice Muazu Pindiga, was wrong to have dismissed the preliminary objection he filed against the jurisdiction of the panel to continue further hearing on the petition, outside Rivers State.
He also wanted the Supreme Court to set aside the verdict of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal which had on September 5, upheld the decision of the tribunal.
But according to the apex court the invocation of the Doctrine of Necessity by the President of the appellate court at the material time was in order, since there was no Chief Judge or President of the Customary Court of Appeal in the State.
It also decided that it was common knowledge that at the material time, there were threats of insecurity, leading to the decision of the President of the appellate court to take a preventive measure of securing the life and property of the members of the Tribunal.
The Court said that in any case, consultation of the Chief Judge of a state and the President of the Customary Court of that state was not to affect the persons nominated to sit on any appeal that may result from elections from that particular state, but to ensure that such a state was represented in the selected panellist for tribunals emanating from the general elections at that time.
The Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on October 24 nullified the election of Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the Governor of Rivers State, on grounds that his election did not comply with electoral guidelines.
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Suleiman Ambrosa, ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections in the state within 90 days of the ruling.
The petition challenging Mr Wike’s victory was filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Mr Dakuku Peterside.
After the Judgement was delivered, the PDP and Mr Wike said they would appeal the judgment of the Rivers State Governorship Tribunal.
Addressing journalists after the judgment, counsel to the PDP, Chris Uche, said that “Governor Nyesom Wike remains governor until the appeal processes are exhausted”.
So Wike has gone before the Court of Appeal in Abuja to challenge the nullification of his election
Wike will argue that the judgment of the tribunal was against the weight of evidence presented before it.
He specifically faulted the tribunal for relying on election guidelines that INEC issued just before the April 11 governorship poll in the state, rather than the Electoral Act itself.
Now, just before that, The Rivers State National and State Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, dealt a fatal blow on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), nullifying the election of the Speaker of state House of Assembly, Owaji Ibani, and 20 lawmakers in the state.
The tribunal, while delivering the judgment in the case of the lawmakers cited cases of irregularities and violence among other electoral malpractices which it said necessitated the nullification of the lawmakers’ election victory.
So Governor Nyesom Wike is not a happy man these days. He is so unhappy that he has described the nullification of his election by the Election Petition Tribunal as a gang up against him and the people of his state. He also claims that the judiciary was setting a dangerous precedent in the country with the way it had gone about elections in Rivers.
Special Adviser to the governor on media and publicity, Mr Opunabo Nko-Tariah released a statement yesterday in Port Harcourt in which he alleged that there was an effort to snatch power from Governor Wike through the back door, adding that legal steps will be taken to defend the mandates of the people displayed in the April 11 general election.
“What is going on right now can best be described as judicial gang-up against Governor Wike, nay, the people of Rivers State. It is an affront on democracy and a blight disregard for the will of the people as evinced in the April 11 general elections.
“The courts are setting pernicious precedents by hinging their verdicts on inane points. Rivers people overwhelmingly gave their mandate to Governor Wike but a microscopic few want to wrest that mandate from him through the back door”.
Peterside condemns Wike’s attack on the Judiciary
Meanwhile, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the April election, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has condemned the slander of the judiciary by Governor Nyesom Wike.
Peterside spoke in Abuja and said condemning an important arm of government like the judiciary by desperate politicians was dangerous for Nigeria and democracy.
He it must be checked quickly because of its consequences.
“The judiciary is a sacred and respected institution. Therefore, anyone who openly criticizes judges and their rulings obviously has a sinister motive.”
“However, it is gratifying to note that people are beginning to fully appreciate the character and temperament of the people we engaged during the last general elections in Rivers State. They are obviously finding it difficult to live under due process and the rule of law because they are used to impunity and violence, the two evils that were taken to new heights under the last government.”