Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Rivers Poll: Tribunal Upholds Election Of 6 PDP Lawmakers, APC To Appeal

All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, lost its bid to sack six members of the National Assembly from Rivers State, who were on March 28, elected on the  platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

In a marathon judgment, the Rivers State National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja, dismissed all the petitions lodged against the PDP lawmakers by the APC and its candidates at the  election.

Justice Muazu Pindiga, who read the judgments, held that the petitioners failed, by way of substantial evidence, to  prove that the elections were marred by violence and manifest irregularities.

Stressing that  the petitioners brought “improper witnesses”, to testify before the tribunal, the panel said it could not rely on hearsay evidence to annul the Rivers State National Assembly election and order a fresh poll as it was prayed to do.

Besides, the Justice Pindiga-led tribunal noted that whereas allegations the petitioners raised against the March 28 election were criminal in nature,  “such allegation has to be proved beyond every reasonable doubt, a burden the petitioners have not been able to effectively discharge.”

The tribunal held that the proof of evidence the APC and its candidates presented against the respondents were “weak”, saying there was no substantial ground to warrant the cancellation of the election .

Upholding preliminary objections that were filed by PDP and its candidates, as well as that of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the tribunal relied on section 85 (1) of the Electoral Act and held that the petitioners lacked the locus standi to seek the annulment of elections in all the federal constituencies in Rivers State.

“The petition fails and is hereby dismissed. Parties are to bear their costs,” the tribunal held.

The PDP lawmakers whose elections were upheld by the tribunal  were  Senator George Sekibo, representing Rivers East Senatorial District; Jerome Eke (Etche/Omuma federal constituency);  Bright Gogo Tamuno (Okrika/Ogu-Bolu); Boniface Emerengwe, (Ikwerre/Emeouha), Kingsley Chinda (Obio/ Akpor) and  Mrs.  Blessing Nsiegbe for PHALGA 2.

Meantime, the APC and its candidates, yesterday, vowed to challenge the judgement of the tribunal at  the Court of Appeal.

While the APC legal team at the National Assembly level is led by Chief B. E. Nwofor, SAN, its governorship election petition  team is led by Chief Akinlolu Olujunmi, SAN.