Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has paid two visits to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, at the Supreme Court in Abuja this month, officials have said.
One of the visits to the CJN, it was learned, coincided with the day the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, conducted the hearing of an application filed by Governor Wike to challenge an order permitting his opponent to inspect the electoral materials used for the poll that brought him to office.
Investigations by our correspondent in Abuja showed that the visits were made without prior appointments.
The election of the former education minister, who ran for the governorship on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, is being challenged by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
The Rivers State Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal had on July 9 reaffirmed its ex parte order made on June 11, 2015, granting permission to Peterside, to inspect the electoral materials used for the poll.
Peterside and the APC had on May 3, 2015, filed their petition before the tribunal to challenge the victory of Wike at the poll.
The Justice Muazu Pindiga-led tribunal had in a ruling dismissed Wike’s application asking for the setting aside of the June 11, 2015 order.
The judge also adjourned till July 22 for the commencement of the pre-hearing session in the petition.
Governor Wike has however denied that his visit to the CJN had anything to do with his case.
Our correspondent learnt that Wike did not meet the CJN on his first visit, which was a Monday. The number one judicial officer in the country was said to have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Lesser Hajj.
Wike however repeated the visit two days later, when he was able to discuss with the CJN.
A source in the governor’s entourage, disclosed to our correspondent that the members of staff in the office of Mohammed were shocked to see the governor.
The source said, “There was no proper appointment because as soon as the governor stepped in and said he would like to see the CJN and was asked if it was on appointment, he answered in the negative.
“Nevertheless, he was allowed to see the CJN; but unfortunately, the CJN was not in the country as he was in Saudi Arabia for the Lesser Hajj.”
The Publicity Secretary of APC in Rivers State, Chief Chris Finebone, said the visit was curious.
Finebone said though his party believed that the person of the CJN was beyond compromise, he nevertheless wondered why Governor Wike refused to carry the media along during the visits.
He said, “We have no cause to doubt the integrity of the CJN, but we must say that the visits must have been made open and known to Nigerians. Why was it not made known?
“Wike believes that every human being has a price. His problem is just to identify the price. His case is pending and he refused to go with the media during the visits.
“We want to believe that the visits didn’t happen and if it happened, he must tell Nigerians why he chose to embark on the visit without the media.”
He called on Nigerians and the people of Rivers to monitor the activities of the governor.
Reacting to the visit, the national leadership of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, said there was nothing wrong with the visits.
Metuh said that the governor had the right to pay official visit to the CJN, adding that he (Wike) should not be vilified because of that.
“Yes, he has the right to pay official visit or courtesy calls on the CJN and I see nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Wike, while denying going to lobby the CJN for his pending tribunal case, told our correspondent that he was at the office because of the issue surrounding the appointment of the acting Chief Justice of Rivers State.
He said since the acting Chief Judge of his state was appointed about three months ago, there was the need to seek the permission of the National Judicial Council to approve and renew the appointment.
Wike said, “I didn’t go there to lobby for anything cynical. If I was going to lobby for anything like that, would I go in the afternoon?
“You may wish to know that we have an acting Chief Judge in my state, and the judiciary is already on vacation and that the NJC may also be on vacation.
“So, I needed to do a letter to the NJC on the need to extend or approve the appointment of the acting CJ in my state. I went there on the two days in daytime; and see Nigerians, they are already imputing another meaning to the visits.”