Rivers State Government Is Unhappy With The Spate Of Judicial Decisions Against It And Alleges Gang-Up As Supreme Court Fails Gov. Nyesom Wike’s Expectations
The judiciary has, for the third time in row, disappointed Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers state as the Supreme Court yesterday dismissed his suit seeking to cancel the sitting of the Rivers State Elections Petitions Tribunal in Abuja.
The judiciary had last Saturday nullified the election of Gov. Wike and ordered a re-run election within 90 days. It also acted on Monday, in similar manner, nullified state assembly elections in 20 constituencies of the state. It also ordered a re-run.
However, Wike had hinted that all the judgments would be taken up on appeal.
And yesterday, the apex justified the shifting of venue of Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal
from Port Harcourt to Abuja, dismissing the appeal filed by Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the powers of the tribunal to shift venue from the Rivers State capital.
Justice Amiru Sanusi of the Supreme Court, who read the lead judgment, justified the decision on the grounds of “security” saying that the appeal lacked merit and substance and was thrown out in its entirety.
Justice Sanusi ruled that President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bukachuwa was right in her decision that the tribunal should sit in Abuja instead of Port Harcourt for the protection of lives of the tribunal members and the spectators. Recall that Wike’s appeal was pending before the apex court before the Saturday’s judgment annulling elections in Rivers
At the Court of Appeal, the panel of justices had upheld the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja on ground of insecurity in Rivers state.
Not satisfied, Wike had approached the apex court seeking for its order to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and the ruling of the petition tribunal on the jurisdiction.
A full panel of the apex court in their unanimously decision dismissed the appeal by Wike and PDP for lacking in merit.
Reading the lead the judgment, Justice Amiru Sanusi held that evidence abound that there were security challenges prevailing in Rivers state as at the time the panel was constituted.
He further held that the court cannot be bound in the decision in Ibori’s case which was cited by the appellant.
The court further noted that in the Ibori case, it was not the President of the Court of Appeal that relocated the tribunal and that there was no situation of insecurity as at then.
“But in the instant case, it was the President of the Court of Appeal that relocated the tribunal to Abuja because of insecurity, it was this situation that demanded for a doctrine of necessity which made the President of the Court to relocate the tribunal to Abuja to protect the lives of the members of the panel.
“I agree with the Court of Appeal that the President of the Court of Appeal is right in relocating the panel to Abuja.
“On the whole, I hold that the tribunal was properly constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal even without consultation with the Chief Judge of Rivers state or the President of the Customary Court
“Even though, as at then, there was no Chief Judge, and there was no President of the Customary Court. The consultation here is not as to the venue of the sitting but to get judges in Rivers state that will be part of the various election petition tribunals.
“It is necessary to protect members of the panel from the theatre of war to where their lives will be secured.
“The President of the Court of Appeal, has the power and has judiciously utilized the power.
“The panel is properly constituted and it is not bereft of jurisdiction to hear the petition of the petitioner, the appeal lack merit and it is hereby dismissed”, the court held.
Elated, Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), lauded the Supreme Court on the decision.
A statement signed by the State Publicity Secretary, stated that “as a party, the APC is grateful that all seven eminent jurists of the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that there was sufficient violence before, during and after the elections to justify the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja and that the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja was to safeguard the lives of the tribunal chairman, members and witnesses. The apex court likened the violence in Rivers to that of a theatre of war such as is prevailing in the North-East.”
The APC praised the “Justices for once again re-affirming that they always dispense justice without fear or favour despite the frequent boasts by Nyesom Wike that he has all the Justices of the Supreme Court in his pocket, whatever that means.
“The significance of all seven eminent Justices of the Supreme Court speaking in one voice in today’s judgment is that the faith, hope and confidence of the ordinary Nigerian to get justice is assured in the Nigerian judicial system”, the party said.
However, pained by disappointments it had encountered in the judiciary, the Rivers State Government alleged a judicial gang up against the governor and his administration.
Special Adviser to the Governor of Media and Publicity, Sir Opunabo Inko-Tariah, who made the allegation in a press statement issued in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said the judiciary was engaged in an affront against the wish and will of the Rivers’ people.
According to Inko-Tariah, “What is going on right now can best be described as judicial gang-up against Governor Wike, nay, the people of Rivers State. It is an affront on democracy and a blight disregard for the will
of the people as evinced in the April 11 general elections.
“The courts are setting pernicious precedents by hinging their verdicts on inane points. Rivers people overwhelming gave their mandate to Governor Wike but a microscopic few want to wrest that mandate from him through the back door. As at when the Tribunals were set up, the Court of Appeal and the Federal High court were sitting. The state was also peaceful. Why move the juridical seat to Abuja then?” he added.
Inko-Tariah pointed out that “the answer is simple: to subvert the will of the people. The issue of security was ostensibly used; it is only a veneer for the compromising bias of our adversaries. But like Winston Churchill said:”truth is incontrovertible: malice may distort it, ignorance may deride it but there it is”. I believe that sagacity shall prevail at the Supreme Court on the substantive issue of who won the governorship election in Rivers State. Rivers people will not resign its self to fate and allow their mandate freely given to Governor Wike stolen away.
“I enjoin all the political and judicial coup plotters to give this a penetrating thought. We shall defend our mandate. The voice of the people is the voice of God and the people have spoken: it is Wike or no one,” Inko-Tariah stated.
– Tony Ailemen, Abuja and Tony Ita-Etim, Port Harcourt