Strike two! A five-man Court of Appeal panel sitting in Abuja has upheld the ruling of the gubernatorial election tribunal in Rivers state with regards to the election of Gov. Nyesom Wike. In a 110-page ruling delivered by Justice M.B. Dongban-Mensem the Court ruled that the election of Mr Nyesom Wike did not conform with the electoral act. The Court has therefore ordered a rerun in 90 days.
In delivering a final ruling, the Court of Appeal decided all the seven issues raised by Governor Wike in favor of Dakuku Peterside and the All Progressives Congress party. The appellate court refused to discard the findings of a lower tribunal saying the number of witnesses is not the main issue but evaluation of the strength of evidence before the trial court.
Issue one on fair hearing resolved for the APC candidate Dakuku. The appellate court also stated it had evaluated the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission and holds them sacrosanct. The Court of Appeal said it agrees that gubernatorial election was marred by wide-scale violence.
On issue two regarding competence of ruling by the new chairman in the lower tribunal, stamps, issuance of service and jurisdiction, the court ruled it was in order. On issue three about locus standing to institute the case at the tribunal in 21 days, the issue was again resolved in APC’s favor.
The court described the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate Wike as crying more than the bereaved
Issue four on INEC manuals, guidelines and non-compliance including non-issuance of pre-hearing notices by the chairman of the lower tribunal, court resolved in APC’s favor saying it was immaterial.
Issue five on the reliance on documentary evidence by the tribunal, resolved for APC.
On issue six, as to whether the lower tribunal was right on card readers, the appeals court said in the evaluation of the evidence before the tribunal after a thorough analysis of the subject matter of card readers and its use, the lead judge stated categorically that card readers guarantee credible elections.
The Court stated that INEC manuals were consistent with the provisions of the electoral Act.
The Court then dismissed Wike’s appeal on all grounds and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh governorship election in Rivers state within 90 days.