The Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal sacked Nyesom Wike as the governor of Rivers State on Saturday and ordered a fresh poll.
The tribunal, headed by Suleiman Ambrosa delivered its ruling in Abuja. It did not give a time limit for a new election to be conducted, ostensibly since the matter could be appealed.
Mr. Wike’s party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said he would challenge the ruling. The petition challenging the election of Mr. Wike as Rivers State Governor was filed by Dakuku Peterside, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the election.
The Rivers governorship election, which was criticised by local and international observers, witnessed widespread violence before and and after the elections.
The presiding judge, Mr. Ambrosa, said petitioners, Mr. Peterside and the APC, called 56 witnesses, while the respondents, Mr. Wike and INEC, called 24 and 16 witnesses respectively.
The PDP, also a respondent, called no witness. The petitioners submitted three issues for determination. According to the tribunal, Governor Wike’s major argument was that most of the petitioners’ witnesses gave “hearsay” evidence.
He also argued that the petitioners should have proven wrongdoing at each polling unit, instead of calling only a few polling units agents. Mr. Wike also argued that non-usage of card reader could not be grounds for nullifying the election.
The PDP argued that the petitioners accused the military of crimes, but did not join the armed forces in the case. The party also argued that non-usage of card reader could not be grounds of nullification of the election.
The APC candidate, Mr. Peterside, said the election was marred by intimidation of voters, non-availability of result sheets, snatching of electoral materials, non-collation of results at wards and LG levels etc. In reaching a decision, the tribunal adopted only one issue for determination – whether the petitioners had proven their case.
The tribunal dismissed preliminary issues concerning its competence raised by the respondents. It concluded that the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses were relevant and reliable. It ruled that INEC had the power to insist on card readers.
“It is not open to anybody to act otherwise,” the tribunal chairman, Mr. Ambrosa, said. “We don’t see any conflict between the introduction of card readers and the provisions of the Electoral Act.”
According to the tribunal, Exhibit A9 presented by the petitioners, which is a report by head of election monitoring team of INEC office in Rivers State, Charles Okoye, confirmed the allegations of the petitioners.
He said a simple glance of the results (Exhibit A10) showed that the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act. The tribunal said the character of voters called by Mr. Wike had been impugned under cross-examination.
Mr. Wike’s witnesses dodged questions under cross-examination and refused to answer questions on documents the petitioners confronted them with, the tribunal stated. “We are in agreement that the evidence of the witnesses of Wike and INEC is incredible and unreliable,” the tribunal said, before nullifying the election, saying the petitioners had proven their case.