Rivers Election Tribunal Insists on Sitting in Abuja
The Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja has dismissed the motion filled by Governor Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging its powers to sit in Abuja instead of Port Harcourt, the state capital where the election took place.
The tribunal headed by Justice Muazu Pindga monday in Abuja, ruled that the motion by Wike and PDP lacked merit and substance.
Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) on behalf of the Governor and PDP, had filed an application challenging the powers of the President of the Court of Appeal to allow the tribunal to sit in Abuja instead of the state where the election in dispute was conducted.
They claimed that the sitting of the tribunal in Abuja was in breach of Section 285 (2) of the 1999 Constitution and provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, and asked the tribunal to relocate to Port Harcourt in compliance with provisions of section 258.
However, Justice Pindiga, in his ruling, held that the tribunal has not violated any provision of the law since the relocation to Abuja was based on security reasons.
The judge disagreed with the claim of the governor on proximity and accessibility as the two major factors that ought to have determined the venue of the sitting adding that proximity and accessibility cannot be determined in the absence of security of the tribunal members and litigants.
He said the President of the Appeal Court acted within the ambit of the law which he said, laid emphasis on conducive atmosphere for the tribunal to hold proceedings.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the last gubernatorial election Dr. Dakuku Peterside had dragged Governor Wike and the PDP before the tribunal challenging his declaration as the elected governor.
Peterside who joined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a co-defendant alleged that the election was marred with irregularities, fraud, violence and malpractices.
He then sought for the cancellation of the poll for a fresh one to be conducted by INEC.
The same verdict was also meted out to the Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State last week, in his bid to stop the Election Petition Tribunal from sitting
The tribunal in its ruling yesterday at FCT High Court, on the motion by Udom challenging the jurisdiction, dismissed it for being misconceived and misplaced .
The governor had through his Counsel Adebgoyega Awomolo (SAN) had challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal for sitting in the Nation’s Capital instead of Uyo the Akwa Ibom State Capital, as provided by section 285 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
Awomolo in his objection to the sitting of the tribunal in Abuja,instead of Uyo argued that fair hearing has been denied his client as provided for in section 36 of the constitution.
He insisted that section 285(2) in so specific that the tribunal shall consider proximity and accessibility to where the election was conducted ,before the venue for sitting to adjudicate on any petition can be considered .
However, the tribunal chairman, Justice Sadiq Umar, in his ruling, agreed with counsel to the petitioner, Woke Olanipekun ,that the issue of security is recognised in law ,in deciding the location where an election tribunal shall seat.
Justice Umar also agreed with the petitioner that the issue of fair hearing cannot take the front burner ,when the security of lives of the tribunal members and litigants are being considered by the court of appeal ,in determining the venue for the sitting .
The tribunal disagreed,with the authorities cited by the governor in the case of Ibori and Ogboru ,adding “that security challenges staring the tribunal in the face ,with the incessant kidnappings,and insurgence is different from the Ibori’s case
The Tribunal Chairman in his ruling, also said that while Ibori’s case heavily relied upon by the governor took place in 2005 ,the constitution has since been amended and had provided time limit for tribunal to hear and decide a petition ,unlike in the former Delta State Governor’s case where there was no time limit .
The tribunal also agreed ,that the issue of proximity and accessibility can only come to the front burner ,when the security of the tribunal and litigants is guaranteed in line with the provision of the law ,that the tribunal shall sit and conduct proceedings in a conducive and secured environment .