The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja,on Saturday annulled the election of Governor Nyesom Wike in the April 11 gubernatorial polls in the state.
The Street Journal recalls that Dr Dakuku Peterside, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his party, had approached the tribunal seeking to nullify the governor’s victory on the grounds of alleged electoral malpractice.
Delivering judgment, the tribunal chairman, Justice Suleiman Ambrosa, held that the conduct of the election did not comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, in respect of non-usage of card reader machines.
“The respondents failed to prove that the the election was conducted in compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act.
“In the circumstance, we are satisfied that the petitioners have proved their case that the Rivers State governorship election held on April 11, 2015 was not conducted in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“The first respondent, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is hereby ordered to conduct fresh election,” the tribunal ordered.
Justice Ambosa further held that the petitioners proved their case with overwhelming evidence that political thugs overran the state during the conduct of the election.
“Exhibit A9 report by Charles Okoye, Head of Election Monitoring Team, INEC in Rivers State, confirmed the allegations of the petitioners.
“Evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses is relevant and reliable.
“The evidence of all the witnesses of the petitioners point to the direction that the election was characterised by fraud,” he said.
The tribunal also dismissed all the preliminary issues concerning the competence of the tribunal raised by the respondents and picked contradictions in the evidence by Wike’s witnesses.
“The voters dodged questions under cross-examination and refused to answer questions on documents the petitioners confronted them with”, Justice Ambusa said.
The tribunal specifically noted that the card reader machine was made mandatory by INEC’s guideline, which had the backing of the 2010 Electoral Act.
It would be recalled that Mr Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), Wike’s counsel, had argued that the non-usage of the card reader could not be ground for nullification of his client’s election.
Specifically discountenancing Ukala’s argument in this regard, the tribunal held that INEC had the powers to insist on the use of card readers, and so it was not open to anybody to act otherwise by way of interpretation.
“The card reader was injected to ensure credibility and transparency,” the tribunal said.
The Street Journal reports that, with this development, Wike and the PDP have 21 days within which to appeal against the judgment to the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, Mr Chris Uche (SAN), the counsel to the PDP, has said that the party will challenge the tribunal’s decision within the period stipulated by law.