Rivers: APC And Burden Of Proof in Southeast District
By: Ifeanyi Izeze
Should the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers state be worried that it lacks any solid platform in the Rivers Southeast senatorial district to stand its claim of victory at the National Assembly polls of March 28, 2015? This is the conundrum that a group “The Rivers South-East Coalition for the Recovery of Stolen Mandate” has vowed to prove at the Rivers state election tribunal when it commences sitting.
It would be recalled that on the day of the presidential and national assembly polls, the All Progressives Congress party (APC) in Rivers state reported violence in several parts of the state particularly the Southeast senatorial district and blamed it on “armed militias” backed by the People's Democratic Party (PDP). The party on the same day of the elections denounced the exercise in the Ogoni and Opobo areas amongst others saying “ Whatever trash that will be announced as the result of today's election will not be acceptable to us because the March 28th 2015 poll in the state was a charade.”
Though the Rivers state PDP Chairman, Felix Obuah in his response said, “Nobody can discredit elections that were hailed by both local and foreign observers as free, fair and credible, nonetheless, he equally declared that “we are not afraid to confront such false witnesses at the tribunal but they should equally be ready to face the consequences of their sinister action after.”
The PDP chairman who also accused the Rivers South/East Senatorial candidate of the APC, Senator Magnus Abe of offering some Pastors and Chiefs of Ogoni huge sums of money as an inducement to petition to the State Election Tribunal that no elections took place in the area, warned that both Senator Abe and the APC should know that the proof of whether or not elections took place in Ogoni goes beyond “the paltry inducement of the false witnesses he (Abe) has assembled.”
The crucial question here is: what is sinister in a man going to a properly constituted court of justice in this case, the Election Tribunal, to seek redress in what he perceived as an outright rape of justice and fair play? And in entire APC in the state, why is the Rivers PDP particularly scared of the senator representing the Rivers Southeast by singling him out for its smear campaign?
In its petition, the Rivers Southeast Coalition had alleged that “Throughout Gokana, Khana, Tai and Opobo/Nkoro and Andoni local government areas, trained-INEC ad hoc personnel were replaced with untrained manpower suspected to be PDP members and this was done in connivance with the Local Government Areas, Electoral Officers in the affected local government areas.
“In almost all the wards across the seven local government areas in the senatorial district were reports of faulty card reading machine, hijack of sensitive materials by hoodlums, non availability of original results sheets and presentation of fake result sheets, intimidation, harassment of the electorates and killings in some areas.
“As discovered, in Wards 6, 9, 16 17 and 18, of Khana local government area, the Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers were all known PDP members in addition to the sudden change and appearance of fresh and non-trained INEC ad-hoc personnel.
“The most egregious aspect of the glaring irregularities and breaches in the election is in the area of a wilful and deliberate non availability of results sheets in nearly all voting centres. This was deliberately made so as to pave the way for the writing of the results thereafter.
“At Opobo/Nkoro, the Local Government Area of Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, the gubernatorial candidate of APC, the house of Opobo/Nkoro Caretaker Committee Chairman, Loveday Jaja, was torched after he escaped to avoid being killed by the PDP hoodlums. Electoral materials meant for the Local Government Area were diverted to John Africa/Ada Tom Pepple Compound area where they were thumb-printed in favour of the PDP.
“Mr. Harold Peterside a PDP Agent in Unit 006 Ward, Oopbo/Nkoro was caught with INEC Register and fake Results Sheet at the Polling Unit.
“At Oyigbo LGA, 40,000 incident forms were being given out at 6:30 a.m. but they stopped when the APC Agent complained about it. He was however asked to leave the INEC office at about 11:30 a.m. The hijacking of the incident forms was one of the strategies the PDP used to rig the March 28 elections in the area.”
No doubt, all the mentioned cases as stated by the Rivers Southeast APC looked genuine and serious but we should not overlook the issue of the burden of proof needed not only to establish a sound case but to also justify any grounds of asking for a cancellation and rerun of the national assembly polls in the district.
It is settled in law that he who asserts must prove. This issue is very relevant in Election Petitions, where in most cases; the applicant lost the election and he alleges that his opponent 'stole' the election through voter fraud, voter suppression or super-imposing election figures. Basically, election rigging no matter the method is criminal. That being the case, when the applicant claims that such criminal activities were involved, which swung the election in favor of his opponent, the rule mandates the applicant to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt and not on the balance of probabilities.
However, as said by Justice Kayode Eso JSC in the case of Chinwendu Vs. Mbamali (1980) “Care must be taken not to sacrifice justice at the altar of technicalities. The time is no more when disputes are dealt with rather on technicalities and not on merit.”
(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja: [email protected] ; 234-8033043009)
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