“Tonye Cole disagreed with the withdrawal. He has said he won’t back down but APC struck a deal with Wike to withdraw their petition. It is part of Wike’s deal with Tinubu."
The All Progressives Congress, APC, on Monday, withdrew the petition it filed to nullify the declaration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Sim Fubara, as winner of the March 18 governorship election in Rivers State.
At least nine candidates that participated in the March 18 governorship election in Rivers State had filed a petition at the tribunal challenging the outcome of the March 18 polls.
INEC had declared candidate of the PDP, Sim Fubara, who scored 302,614 votes as winner of the election, but opposition parties were not satisfied with the outcome of the polls.
Those who have filed a petition at the tribunal are: Beatrice Itubo (Labour Party), Tekena Iyagba (Boot Party), Innocent Ekwu (APM), Etete Sobere (PRP), Gabriel Gborogbosi (Action Alliance), Magnus Abe (SDP), Pastor Tonye Cole (APC) and Dumo Lulu Briggs (Accord Party).
However, at the tribunal on Monday, the Rivers state election petition tribunal struck out the petition filed by the All Progressive Congress, APC, following the withdrawal by its counsel.
Solomon Umoh, Counsel to the APC told the tribunal that he would be taking over as counsel for the party following a motion for change of counsel before the tribunal.
He also informed the court that his clients would like their names to be struck out from the petition as applicants.
Jibrin Okutepa who was the former counsel for Tonye Cole and the APC, told the tribunal that he was not briefed on the new development by the party.
The three-man panel, led by Justice Cletus Emifoniye, however granted the application for change of counsel and also granted the motion as prayed by striking out the name of APC as a petitioner.
The APC’s withdrawal was brought pursuant to order 9 rule 15 of the federal high court civil procedure rules 2019.
One of the grounds for the application amongst others is that “There is the need to seek the leave of this Honourable Tribunal to strike out the name of the 2nd Petitioner/Applicant, as the Applicant has no intention to participate in this petition.”
No date has been fixed for the commencement of the pre-hearing of applications before the tribunal.
Top party sources informed SaharaReporters that the move to withdraw the petition was part of the “deal” between outgoing governor, Nyesom Wike, and “president-elect” Bola Tinubu who became allies shortly before the elections, after Wike fell out with Atiku Abubakar – his party’s presidential candidate.
“Rivers APC had complained against the lawyer nominated by the National Legal Adviser, Barrister Ahmed El-Mazurk, particularly because the said lawyer has links to outgoing Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike. So, for us it's good riddance.
“Tonye Cole disagreed with the withdrawal. He has said he won’t back down but APC struck a deal with Wike to withdraw their petition. It is part of Wike’s deal with Tinubu,” one of the sources revealed.