The Rivers State Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Monday refused Rivers State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike’s application seeking to dismiss the petition filed by the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Dr Dakuku Peterside, challenging Wike’s victory in the April 11, 2015 governorship election in the state.
Justice Muazu Pindiga, the tribunal chairman, while delivering ruling on Wike’s application held that Peterside’s petition was competent and complied with section 18(1) of the Electoral Act 2010.
The tribunal held that the non-payment of the N100 pre-hearing notice fee by the petitioner, as claimed by Wike, was not compulsory and not enough ground to dismiss the petition.
The tribunal, therefore, dismissed Wike’s application, upheld Peterside’s petition, for lacking in merit and substance.
The APC and its governorship candidate in the state Dr. Dakuku Peterside had approached the tribunal challenging Wike’s election on the ground that the election was marred by malpractices, irregularities and violence and called for the cancellation of the poll.
However, Wike and PDP on Aug. 14, applied to the tribunal to quash the petition on the ground that it was not competent and that it did not comply with section 18(1) of the Electoral Act 2010.
They also contended that the petition was not competent because the petitioner failed to pay the mandatory N100.00 prehearing notice fee as demanded by law had abandoned the petition in the face of the law.
Wike and PDP had on August 14, 2015 argued two separate applications seeking dismissal of the APC’s petition against the governor.
APC and Peterside had specifically sought the nullification of the poll and for an order directing the conduct of a fresh one by INEC.
Wike and PDP had prayed for an order of the tribunal dismissing the petition as being abandoned in consequence of non -compliance with provisions of paragraph 18(1) of First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
The PDP counsel, Ken Njemanze SAN held that the petitioners failed to pay the necessary filing fees for the application made by their counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi SAN, for issuance of Form TF 007(application for pre-hearing session).
Payment of such fees is statutory and constitutes a condition precedent for the invocation of the jurisdiction of the tribunal, Njemanze held.
Similarly, Emmanuel Ukala SAN, representing Wike also urged dismissal of the petition.
Ukala held that failure to comply with provisions of paragraph 18(1) of First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 as amended with regards to filing of pre-hearing notice, “is fatal to the petition”.
Chief F.O Orbih SAN, who appeared for INEC adopted the submissions of Njemanze and Ukala.
But in opposition to the two separate motions, the petitioners’ counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi SAN had urged the court to dismiss the applications for lacking in merit.
He said the respondents forgot that the petitioners made a security deposit of N500,000 adding that a tribunal can kick start a pre-hearing session by oral application.
Ruling in all the fresh applications argued on Monday was fixed for Wednesday.