Rivers State governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, reserved judgment in the petition brought before it by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside, seeking to nullify the election of Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The three-member panel, led by Justice Suleiman Ambrosa, reserved the date to deliver judgment in the petition after all the parties adopted their final written addresses.
While the petitioners, through their counsel Chief Akinolu Olujunmi, want the tribunal to sack Governor Wike and order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh governorship electionl in Rivers State, all the respondents (INEC, Wike and the PDP) in the petition are praying the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.
While adopting their final written argument dated October 19, Olujunmi, representing the petitioners, urged the tribunal to hold that “no governorship election known to any law in Nigeria took place in Rivers State on April 11.
“It is the case of the petitioners that there was no election conducted in Rivers State known to law. The second respondent (Wike) has the burden to justify the over 1 million votes that was allotted to him by INEC. What we are simply asking for is the nullification of the election,” he told the tribunal.
On his part, Wike, through his lawyer, Mr Emmanuel Ukala, relied on the provision of section 85(1) of the Electoral Act to insist that Dr Peterside was not validly nominated by the APC to contest the governorship election.
Wike contended that instead of the 21 days provided by the Electoral Act, APC only gave INEC 16 days notice before it conducted the primaries that produced Peterside as its governorship standard-bearer in the state.
“My lords, this goes to the issue of qualification. The Appeal Court had, in its decision in Labour Party vs Wike, held that the 21 days notice is mandatory. There is, therefore, no locus standi in the petitioner before this court,” he said.
Similarly, INEC, through its lawyer, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition and affirm the governorship election result it declared in Rivers State.
INEC also urged the tribunal to ignore the evidence of one of its staff from Rivers State, Mr Charles Okoye, who had in his testimony for the petitioners, maintained that the Rivers election was a sham.
The commission asked the tribunal to regard Okoye’s testimony as his personal opinion and not its official position on the Rivers State governorship election.
Earlier, lead counsel for the PDP, Chief Wole Olanipekun, also prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition and uphold Governor Wike’s election.
After listening to all the parties on Thursday, the tribunal reserved its judgment on the matter.