The Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Friday fixed Aug. 17, for ruling on separate applications filed by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and its governorship candidate in the April governorship election, Gov. Nyesom Wike, seeking to dismiss the petition of Dr Dakuku Peterside, challenging Wike’s election, on technical grounds.
The Street Journal recalls that Peterside, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the said election had approached the tribunal challenging Wike’s victory on allegations of widespread electoral irregularities, violence and malpractices.
Peterside who joined his party, APC, as a co-petitioner; Wike, PDP and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as co-respondents, specifically urged the tribunal to nullify the election results and order INEC to conduct a fresh election.
At Friday’s resumed sitting of the tribunal, however, the respondents filed an application dated July 27, 2015, praying the tribunal to dismiss the petitioners’ case on the ground of non-compliance with the provisions of paragraph 18(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 as, amended.
Moving the application, PDP counsel, Mr Ken Njemanze, SAN, argued that the petitioners “failed to pay the necessary filing fees’’ in respect of the application for the pre-hearing session filed by their counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, for the issuance of Form TF 007.
The payment of such fees, he contended, was statutory and constituted a condition precedent for the invocation of the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
“In the circumstance, we submit that, in law, there is no application for the issuance of Form TF007 and we, therefore, urge this court to dismiss this petition, having been abandoned,” Njemanze argued.
Arguing in the same vein, Mr Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, Wike’s counsel, also urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
According to Ukala, the applicants’ failure to comply with the provisions of paragraph 18(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, with regards to the filing of pre-hearing notice, “is fatal to the petition”.
Ukala cited the July 22, 2015 decision of the Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which dismissed Chief Emeka Ihedioha’s petition against Governor Rochas Okorocha for the same reason of failure to pay the filing fee for the pre-hearing notice.
Similarly INEC’s counsel, Chief F.O Orbih SAN, aligned himself with the submissions of Njemanze and Ukala.
The petitioners’ counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, however, urged the tribunal to dismiss the two separate applications for lacking in merit.
Olujinmi contended that the respondents forgot that the petitioners made a security deposit of N500,000, arguing further that the tribunal could kick-start the pre-hearing session by oral application.
According to Olujinmi, the tribunal should not allow the respondents’ motions on grounds of technicality.
He said: “Not paying the filing fee of N100 for pre-hearing notice is a mere irregularity that can be corrected by an order of the court.”
Consequently, the tribunal chairman, Justice Muazu Pindiga, adjourned till Aug. 17, for ruling.