Rivers Election: How Wike’s lawyers argued, won at Supreme Court

Governor Nyesom Wike celebrating with his supporters

The Supreme Court judgement which returned Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, as the duly elected governor of the state, came after a legal battle which highlighted several electoral matters.

The ruling resulted from three appeals by Mr. Wike, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

They all challenged the decision of the Rivers State tribunal to nullify Mr. Wike’s election, and the decision of the Court of Appeal, to uphold the tribunal’s judgement.

Although the seven-member panel of judges said it would give reasons for the ruling on February 12, respective lawyers vigorously laid out their cases.

Mr. Wike’s counsel, Emanuel Okala, told the court at the beginning of the session on Wednesday that the Rivers State tribunal erred in its judgement, by failing to take full cognizance of all electoral details presented by his team.

He said voters’ registers tendered during the tribunal’s hearings were for 11 out of 23 Local Government Areas, and that none of them was examined at the tribunal.

The PDP’s Counsel, Wole Olanikpekun, also submitted that the statement of the 40th witness at the tribunal, who was an INEC staff, lacked merit, as the person was not at the venue of the voting.

He said the tribunal erred by striking out more than 100 pages of processes presented before it.

Mr. Olanikpekun said of 4, 442 polling units in the state, only 12 representatives of polling units were called to the tribunal.

The counsel to INEC, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, also said the testimony of the 40th witness, at the tribunal were at best, “documentary hearsays” and could not suffice as proof of the allegation of disruption of election.

He said the only proof that should have been considered were those of the agents at the polling centres not that of the said witness, adding that the 40th witness did not identify any polling center where an alleged refraction occurred.

He prayed the court not to consider the statement of the 40th Prosecution Witness.

But the counsel to Dakuku Peterside, the All Progressives Congress’ candidate, Akin Olujimi, said the INEC’s monitoring officer, listed as the 40th Prosecution Witness, had stated during the tribunal sitting that there was no election.

He said INEC did not distance itself from the result of the election monitoring, which was done by a staff, under its official capacity as an employee of the commission.

He added that electoral malfeasance was evident, and that section 57 of the Electoral Act made it mandatory for INEC to rely on the card readers for the conduct of the election.

Mr. Olujimi also said the incident forms also contributed to the problems, as over 20, 000 incident forms were brought to the tribunal, with no explanation from any one.

Mr. Olujimi said details presented by witnesses proved that there were no proper accreditations, implying that there were no elections.

Before presenting their judgments, the panel of judges expressed concern about the cancellation of over 100 pages pf processes by the tribunal.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Tomori Kekere-Ekun upheld the decision of INEC which returned Mr. Wike as the elected governor of the state.

Mr. Kekere-Ekun set aside the decision of the tribunal, and upheld the three appeals by Mr. Wike, the PDP, and INEC, describing them as meritorious.

The panel however said its reasons for the ruling will be given on February 12.

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