Political Tsunami Hits Wike As Tribunal Sacks Rivers Speaker, 20 Other Lawmakers

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continued to suffer losses in Rivers State as the Elections Petitions Tribunal, which sat in Abuja, nullified the elections of Speaker Owaji Ibani representing Andoni constituency and 20 other lawmakers in the state assembly.
In its ruling yesterday evening, the tribunal faulted the declaration of the lawmakers as winners insisting that the election did not meet set standards.
It subsequently ordered fresh elections.
There are 32 state lawmakers in Rivers State House of Assembly.
Meanwhile, Governor Nyesom Wike, the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have continued to exchange words over the nullification of the governorship election on Saturday.
Wike said his mandate will be restored at the Appeal Court.
Speaking yesterday through Simeon Nwakaudu, his media assistant, Wike argued that the “judgment of the Justice Ambrosa-led tribunal in the petition filed by the defeated Rivers State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Mr. Dakuku Peterside, will not stand the test of appeal.”
Elsewhere, Wike, at a thanksgiving service on Sunday held in honour of his supporters in Port Harcourt, Wike described last weekend’s verdict as a distraction, urging the people to stand along with him.
“I thank God for the opportunity to serve the people of Rivers State and I know that only God has the final say,” he said.
“The only weapon I have is prayers; we don’t have any connection, no contact but we do know that the contact of God is the supreme contact.
“If they think that, that judgment will distract me, no way. I will not be distracted but get more focused.
Reacting to Wike, the state’s chapter of APC said it would defeat Nyesom Wike, incumbent governor, in a fresh free and fair election.
The party urged him to refrain from appealing the decision if he was sure of his popularity, so that both sides could, instead, meet at another poll.
“Wike is aware that in a free and fair election in Rivers State, the APC gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, will beat him so mercilessly that he will lose his deposit.
“If Wike and PDP are convinced that they truly won any election in Rivers State, we challenge them not to appeal the tribunal judgment and let the people of Rivers State decide in a free and fair election,” Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, spokesman of the Rivers APC chairman, said in a statement yesterday.
“It was on the premise of the INEC Press Statement that the Justice Ambrosa-led Tribunal opined that the use of both card reader accreditation and manual accreditation as done in Rivers State as well as other states was wrong. The tribunal failed to acknowledge the fact that the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos upheld the election of Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, with the clear declaration that the non-use or non functionality of the card reader cannot invalidate an election,” he said. “This position has been held in all other states where the tribunals declared that accreditation in an election was done both by the use of card readers and the manual process. Tribunal judgments on governorship elections in Nasarawa, Gombe, Ogun, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Lagos and Enugu States have been consistent on the accreditation process. “There was no single state where the tribunal nullified an election on the premise of INEC Press Statement on the card reader because the Electoral Act predates the introduction of the card reader, as spelt out by the INEC Press Statement.” He further stated that all the tribunals and the Supreme Court held that proving allegations of electoral irregularities in an election must be done on a polling unit by polling unit basis. “In the case of Rivers State, the Justice Ambrosa-led Tribunal negated the legal process and used generic considerations of the hearsay testimonies of a few ward and local government collation agents who admitted in open court that they were not participants at the polling units where election took place to nullify a validly conducted election,” Wike added. “The judicial process of Appeal has been kick-started by Governor Nyesom Wike as his lawyers are completing the necessary process of Appeal. The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal erred in its judgment and this will be corrected at the Appellate Level. There cannot be a different set of rules for Rivers State, aside that which has been approved by the National Assembly and upheld by other tribunals and the Appeal Court. The Press Statement issued by INEC can never override the law made by the representatives of the Nigerian people. “In addition, the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had earlier thrown out the petitions of the Labour Party and that of the Social Democratic Party ( SDP) on the valid premise that they contravened the Electoral Act Section 85 (1) which stipulates that a political party must give INEC 21 Days Notice before conducting her primary. The tribunal held that the two political parties had no candidate for the election because they didn’t conduct a valid governorship primary. “However, when the same issue of non compliance with the Electoral Act Section 85 ( 1 ) was raised against the Rivers State APC Governorship Candidate whose party failed to give INEC the mandatory 21 days notice, the Justice Ambrosa-led Tribunal shockingly jettisoned its earlier rulings on the same matter. This action by the Ambrosa-led Tribunal will also not stand the test of Appeal. “Governor Wike will not be distracted by this contrived setback as his mandate will be re – validated by the judicial appeal process in view of the obvious errors in the judgment of the Justice Ambrosa-led Tribunal.” Saturday’s judgement means a fresh governorship election will be organised within 90 days, while the appeal will have to be decided in an even shorter time frame of 60 days.

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