President Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa

The Supreme Court yesterday okayed the decision of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bukachuwa, to relocate the Rivers state governorship election petition tribunal to Abuja over insecurity in the state.
Last Saturday, the tribunal nullified the April 11 governorship election which produced overnor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as governor and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.

Before the judgement was delivered, Wike’s appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal has been pending Before the tribunal.

At the Court of Appeal, the panel of justices had upheld the relocation on ground of insecurity in Rivers state.

Not satisfied, Wike had approached the apex court seeking to set aside the judgement of the lower court.

Ruling on the appeal yesterday, a full panel of the apex court unanimously dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.

Reading the lead judgement, Justice Amiru Sanusi held that evidence abound that there were security challenges prevailing in Rivers state as at the time the panel was constituted.

He further held that the court cannot be bound in the decision in Ibori’s case which was cited by the appellant.

The court further noted that it was not the President of the Court of Appeal that relocated the tribunal and that there was no situation of insecurity.

“But in this case, it was the President of the Court of Appeal that relocated the tribunal to Abuja because of insecurity. It was this situation that demanded for a doctrine of necessity which made the President of the Court to relocate the tribunal to Abuja to protect the lives of the members of the panel.

“I agree with the lower court that the PCA is right in relocating the panel to Abuja.

“On the whole, I hold that the tribunal is properly constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal even without consultation with the Chief Judge of Rivers state or the President of the Customary Court.

“Even though, as at then, there was no Chief Judge, and there was no President of the Customary Court. The consultation here is not as to the venue of the sitting but to get judges in Rivers state that will be part of the various election petition.

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