Rivers State: Gloomy Xmas for Nyesom Wike

Rivers State: Gloomy Xmas for Nyesom Wike

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 7:01 pm


Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja
Nyesom Wike: Not a merry Xmas in Port Harcourt

Nyesom Wike: Not a merry Xmas in Port Harcourt

For Governor Nyesom Wike and the Rivers State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP the impending Christmas celebrations may not be a cheerful one.

The Court of Appeal has put what seemed a final dampener on the joy that would have accompanied the yuletide celebrations of the governor and members of his party with the nullification of the election of Wike on Wednesday, in continuation of the reverses the party had suffered in its 100 per cent victory in the governorship and National Assembly polls of the 2015 general elections.  
Justice M.B Dongban- Mensem who led a three man panel of the appellate court had in a 110-page unanimous ruling affirmed the October 24 decision of Justice Suleiman Ambrossa led Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to nullify the election of Wike.
The tribunal had in its judgment upheld allegations by  Dakuku Peterside, the All Progressives Congress, APC gubernatorial candidate and the petitioner that the governorship election was marred with malpractices, violence and irregularities as it was not conducted in accordance to Electoral Act.  
The Tribunal especially noted that officials of Independent National Electoral Commission failed to comply with their guidelines which stipulated that accreditation of voters must be by Card Readers, and that, where the machine malfunctioned, election in that area or polling unit should be postponed.
 

The Tribunal further noted that based on written statements admitted in court and oral evidences given by witnesses called by the petitioner, it was convinced that, rather than postpone election in areas where the Card Readers failed, election officials resorted to manual accreditation of voters. 

Dakuku Peterside still having the last laugh

Dakuku Peterside still having the last laugh

The Tribunal said after considering  statements of witnesses and potency of evidence tendered by the petitioner, it was convinced that the election was not credible and  conducted without adherence with INEC guidelines, as “there were widespread irregularities, allocation of figures, violence, ballot snatching, intimidation of voters, corrupt practices, etc.”
 The Tribunal had consequently ordered Wike to vacate his seat while INEC should conduct a fresh election for the state within 90 days. But the Rivers State governor had challenged the decision of the Tribunal, insisting that he was duly elected governor of the state‎. He asked the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the tribunal, arguing that‎ the lower court failed to consider the evidence – that a proper election took place in Rivers state on April 11 – tendered before it.
But in dismissing the appeal, the Justice M.B Dongban- Mensem panel held that the Tribunal was right in nullifying Wike’s election.  Just like the tribunal, the appellate court held that the APC gubernatorial candidate successfully proved that the Rivers State governorship election was marred by malpractices and was conducted with total disregard to both the Electoral Act, 2010, and Electoral Guidelines issued by INEC.
While affirming that guidelines issued by INEC made the use of the Card Reader Machines for authentication of voters for the election mandatory during the election, the Justices said evidence presented before it suggested that ‎some officials of the Commission in Rivers state “blatantly and brazenly” refused to employ the Card Reader Machines, an innovation the court said was meant to bring sanity and sanctity to the electoral process.  “It portends great danger for our democracy ‎and electoral process for INEC officials to have the effrontery and temerity to thwart laid down directives and go ahead to conduct elections according to their own whims and caprices, notwithstanding the approved guidelines,” the Justices said.
According to the Justices, it would be tantamount to laying a bad precedent for INEC officials to be allowed to overlook directives and guidelines aimed at ensuring that elections are free, fair and credibly conducted.
 The court particularly noted that two top officials had in their testimony before the lower tribunal admitted that the April 11 governorship election was not ‎conducted in compliance to the Electoral Act and set guidelines.
This, the Justices said amounted to self indictment by INEC. ‎The panel resolved all the seven grounds of appeal against Wike.
“Having determined that the 2nd respondent was not validly elected, I hereby affirm and uphold the decision of the lower tribunal that nullified his return as the winner of the April 11 governorship election in Rivers State. I hereby affirm the order for INEC to ‎conduct a fresh election. I make no order as to cost”, Justice M. B. Dongban-Mensem said in the lead judgment that sent members of APC present at the court into ecstasy.  
In his reaction contained in a statement issued few hours after the judgment, the APC gubernatorial candidate  hailed the verdict of the Appeal Court while adding that the Nigerian judiciary is sending the right signal, particularly to those who perpetrate violence and fraud during elections.  
“Never again will a peoples’ mandate be subverted so viciously by a violent and self-seeking few, all in the name of political contest. Members of our party and supporters were murdered in cold blood in their homes and campaign grounds for their political beliefs. We are happy that this injustice is currently being addressed by a credible institution like the judiciary.  
“We pray never to experience the level of persecution, violence and deaths that characterised both the March and April elections in our state. Democracy is about freedom, equality and justice; so everybody must join hands to defend it at all times,” said Peterside.
Despite the two consecutive losses, Wike said the battle to retain his seat is not over, as he has instructed his lawyers to appeal the judgment at the Supreme Court. In a statement issued, by Simeon Nwakaudu, his Special Assistant on Electronic Media,Wike stated that he disagrees with the judgment, hence his decision to exhaust his constitutional right by challenging the Appeal Court judgment at the Supreme Court.
He also vowed to use all constitutional processes to protect the mandate which he claimed the people of the state freely bestowed on him, hence his decision to approach the Supreme Court for further adjudication.
But for PDP, it is already looking like a lost battle- the Appeal Court had last week sacked all the three senators as well as 12 out of the 13 representatives of the State in the House of Representatives.
The nullifications of the electoral victories had long been predicted by observers who argued that there was no proper election in Rivers State during the 2015 general elections. PDP, Nigeria’s then ruling party had deployed operatives of different security agencies not only to rig the polls, but to give cover to thugs and militants who unleash a reign of terror on identified supporters of opposition, especially, the APC during the election.

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  • Eldorado says:

    CONCERNED AKWA IBOM ELDERS DECRY LACK OF JUSTICE IN JUDICIAL DECISIONS ON AKWA IBOM ELECTIONS

    DEMAND PROBE OF CONTRADICTORY JUDGMENTS

    We the undersigned elders of Akwa Ibom State, having reviewed the judgments of all the election petition tribunals and those of the Court of Appeal on the petitions and appeals that arose from the elections of 28 March 2015 and 11 April 2015 in the state, hereby express our very serious concern over the clear cases of miscarriage of justice in nearly all of the decided cases so far.

    Our concerns are based on self-evident facts that if the election petitions were determined on their merits, the judicial decisions would have been consistent with the demands of justice and even common sense. In specific terms, the following are our grounds of concern:

    1. THE WORLD CANNOT BE WRONG IN CONDEMNING THE AKWA IBOM POLLS AS FRAUDUDLENT

    In their written reports and many media interviews on the elections held on the days cited above, the European Union, the American Government, the African Union and local election monitors all condemned the conduct of the polls in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states. In a unanimous verdict, the representatives of the international community that monitored the elections stated categorically that elections as known to Nigerian laws did not take place in both Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
    Local security reports on the elections in both states equally stated that the said elections in both states were substantially marred by irregularities and violence. Most of the judicial decisions on the Akwa Ibom election petitions and appeals ignored the position of the international community on the polls. But the world cannot be wrong. The judges and justices that handled the election petitions and appeals in Rivers State agreed with the international community. Why is the Akwa Ibom case different?

    2. NON-SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE WITH AND BREACH OF THE ELECTORAL ACT AND THE CONSTITUTION

    We have noted with disbelief how most of the rulings of the various tribunals and the Court of Appeal were clearly inconsistent with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. In all the election cases so far decided, a serious case of over voting was established. For instance, during the governorship election petition, evidence was led before the tribunal to establish a case of over voting where 1,222,836 votes were recorded by Akwa Ibom State INEC as against INEC headquarters Card Reader data which show that only 437,128 voters were accredited to cast ballot in the governorship election. The voters’ register also showed a lower figure of 448, 307 as having been accredited to vote in the election. It is just not possible for 437,128 voters, going by the Card reader figure (or 448, 307, according to the voters’ register) to cast 1,222,836 votes. Section 53 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, provides for the cancellation of elections where there are incidents of over voting. By failing to cancel the entire governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, the election petition tribunal had ignored the clear provision of the law for the conduct of the election. Akwa Ibom people demand explanation.

    We want to highlight another instance of breach of the provision of the Electoral Act in the adjudication of the election petitions in Akwa Ibom State with respect to over voting. In Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District (Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District), where both the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal upheld the election of the Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio, the number of votes cast in the election, which stood at 450,000, according to INEC records, far exceeded the number of registered voters in the entire senatorial district, which stand at 205,000 in INEC record. Yet the courts overlooked this clear case of over voting, again contrary to section 53 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended.

    The case of former governor Godswill Akpabio has more bewildering dimension. The courts equally overlooked the unambiguous fact that Senator Akpabio was not presented by his party for election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, where he was declared elected, and rationalised that the nomination of Akpabio for election in a different senatorial district other than where he was declared winner was a minor error that was erased, in the curious view of the courts, by the unfathomable argument that the voters knew whom they voted for even if he was not validly nominated for the election. We invite the world to look at the contrary decision in a similar case in Taraba State, where it was decided that the PDP candidate for the election, who is now the state governor, could not be returned elected because he was not validly nominated by his party due to a similar irregularity in his nomination process. Votes for the PDP candidate in the election were regarded as wasted votes because he was not validly nominated. Why was the law applied differently in the case of Akwa Ibom North Senatorial District?

    3. THE JUDICIARY HAS MADE NIGERIA AN OBJECT OF RIDICULE BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ON AKWA IBOM POLLS

    The blatant denial of justice by the Judiciary to Akwa Ibom voters and the APC candidates who contested the elections has presented Nigeria before the international community as a country of strong men, where only the rich and powerful get justice. But all internationally respected nations operate on the basis of the rule of law, where all manner of men get equal treatment at the temple of justice. Nigeria is thus reduced by some of its judges to a laughing stock before the international community. In fact, in other jurisdictions, the election would have been cancelled outright by the election umpire. But in the Akwa Ibom case, not only did the election umpire announce the results of the fraudulent polls, the tribunal also failed to declare that the PDP governorship candidate was not validly returned, even when it held that he did not meet the requirements of the law to be returned elected.

    A combination of these failures in upholding the law in the Akwa Ibom election cases has truly reduced Nigeria’s standing in the comity of democratic nations.

    4. WE DEMAND PROBE OF THE UNJUST AND UNFAIR JUDGMENTS ON THE AKWA IBOM ELECTION CASES

    In the light of the foregoing, we the undersigned Concerned Elders of Akwa Ibom State, hereby respectfully call on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, President Muhammadu Buhari to institute a judicial commission of enquiry into the adjudication of all the election petitions and appeals that resulted from the elections held in Akwa Ibom State on 28 March 2015 and 11 April 2015. The good people of Akwa Ibom State demand to know why the Judiciary treated election cases emanating from their state completely differently from similar cases in Rivers and Taraba states. The President is requested to investigate the allegations published by Sahara Reporters that Appeal Court Justices who handled the election cases from Akwa Ibom were bribed by the PDP-controlled government in the state. The allegations by Sahara Reporters, which detailed how mind-boggling amounts of cash were hauled at night to Abuja through the Akwa Ibom State Airport for the purposes of bribing the Appeal Court Justices, should not be swept under the carpet. The question of corruption of the judicial system in the adjudication of the Akwa Ibom election petition cases appears to be self-evident.

    Last night the AIT carried a story obviously sponsored by the Akwa Ibom State government that the PDP had won 12 House of Assembly cases in the Court of Appeal, whereas those cases have not been decided yet. Though the cases were billed to be decided yesterday, the court did not take them. It is apparent that the story of the PDP ‘victories’ were aired on TV based on pre-arrangement, suggesting that the PDP had already seen the judgments. We believe that a judicial commission of inquiry into these allegations of corruption is the least that President Buhari can do to give our people a sense of justice and fair play, and restore their faith in the democratic process.

    Signed:

    Otuekong Jackson Udoh,
    Leader, Uyo Elders Forum

    Obong Rita Akpan,
    Former Minister of the Federal Republic

    Dr Ime Okopido,
    Former Minister of the Federal Republic

    Professor Okon Eminue,
    Former Chairman, Governing Council of Akwa Ibom State University.

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