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Guber tussle: Why we affirmed Wike, Amosun's elections – Supreme Court

By The Citizen
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The Supreme Court on Friday gave its reasons for affirming the election of Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Rivers State and that of Ibikunle Amosun of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the governor of Ogun State.

A seven-man panel led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mmahmud Mohammed, had fixed Friday to give the full reasons for its decisions which delivered in an abridged judgment, affirming the two governors' elections on January 27.

The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal ‎had affirmed the judgment of the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which had ordered a rerun of the Rivers State governorship election.

Wike had appealed against the decision of the Court of Appeal, and all the members of the apex court panel in thier unanimous judgment delivered on January 27 had overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal, and affirmed his election.

The apex court held that both the All Progressives Congress and its candidates in the April 11 poll, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, failed to prove their case of malpractices and non-compliance as required.

Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, in her lead judgment held that while the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission 'enjoy a presumption of irregularity' the petitioners could only have proved their allegation of non-compliance with the conduct of the election by calling eyewitnesses from about 5,000 voting units in the state.

The court reiterated its position that card reader was not a sufficient replacement for manual accreditation.

It further held that the non-compliance with INEC's manual and guidelines by its officials in the conduct of election was not a sufficient ground to void the election.

The apex court was also of the view that Peterside and the APC failed to discharge the burden of prove placed on them having alleged misconduct including violence, disenfranchisement and non-compliance.

The court held that the tribunal denied Wike and his party, the right to fair hearing by allowing a wrong panel to deliver ruling on an application they filed, challenging the competence of the petition.

Justice Kekere-Ekun also  held that it was wrong for Justice Suleiman Ambrosa, the later chairman of the tribunal, to have gone ahead to deliver ruling on some interlocutory applications earlier heard and reserved for ruling by the former tribunal chairman, Muazu Pindig.

Justice Kumai Aka'ahs, giving the reasons for the apex court's decision in the lead judgment with respect to Ogun State governorship election, held that the appeal against Amosun's election filed by the Peoples Democratic Party's candidate in the April 11, 2015, Adegboyega Isiaka, lacked merit.

Isiaka and the PDP had challenged the conduct of the election in nine local government areas of Ogun State, namely, Ifo, Abeokuta-North, Abeokuta South, Odeda, Ewekoro, Obafemi-Owode, Ado/Odo/Ota, Sagamu and Remo- North.

The appellants had urged the tribunal to nullify the election on the grounds that 'it was marred by malpractices such as rigging, snatching of ballot boxes, thuggery, violence, declaration of false results, falsification of results, importation of thugs from a foreign location, stuffing of ballot boxes with ballot papers, misuse of card readers and Permanent Voters Cards'.

The tribunal had dismissed the appeal on the basis that no credible evidence was adduced to prove the allegations.

The petitioners subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal, which also upheld the verdict of the tribunal.

They further appealed to the Supreme Court which in its abridged judgment delivered on January 27, 2016, dismissed the appeal.

Giving full reasons for his position on Friday, Justice Aka'ahs held that the appeal was bound to fail on the account of inconsistencies in the report of inspection of electoral materials tendered by the star witness of the appellants (Isiaka and the PDP) and the inadmissibility of the said document.

He also held that to prove the improper conduct of the election in nine local government areas which had 1,672 polling units, the appellants only called nine witnesses out whom only two were eyewitnesses to what transpired in only about 12 polling units.

Justice Aka'ahs also held that the evidence and the report of inspection of the electoral materials used for the conduct of the poll (Exhibit P4275) led by the appellants star witness (PW9), since the (the witness) was a member of the PDP who was bound to benefit in the outcome of the case. - Punch.