The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, to dismiss the petition filed by Dakuku Peterside, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for lack of merit.
Mr Wole Olanipekun, (SAN), one of the counsels to the PDP who adopted the party’s final written address before the tribunal on Thursday made the plea.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) , on the other hand, is before the Justice Suleiman Ambursa-led three-man panel seeking the nullification of the April 11 election which produced Governor Nyesom Wike on the ground that the election was marred by irregularities and fraudulent practices.
The petitioners are also arguing that the election as conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not done in line with the electoral laws.
But Olanipekun of PDP argued that the petition of APC candidate, Dakuku Peterside lacked merit and substance and the petitioner has failed to prove the several unfounded allegations against the conducted of the election.
He pointed out that the petitioners had alleged several cases of violence and abduction of voters which they failed to lead in the direction or call enough witness to prove their claims. According to Olanipekun, the petition is incompetent and that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to amend the petition for the petitioners especially on the outlandish reliefs it sought.
Also in his address, Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition filed by the petitioners. According to Ikpeazu, the burden of proof rests with the petitioners who failed to discharge same before the tribunal. Ikpeazu argued further that the few witnesses called by the petitioners like the soldiers, mobile policemen and DSS operatives were not voters who could give actual account of what happened at the polling unit by polling unit.
Also, Counsel to Wike, Mr Emmanuel Ukala, (SAN) told the tribunal that Dakuku was not qualified to contest the April 11 election. According to Ukala, Dakuku’s nomination contradicted the provision of Section 85 (1) of the Electoral Act which is critical to the nomination of a candidate vying for election. Ukala said that the nomination of Dakuku was not in line with the 21 days mandatory notification of the electoral act to notify INEC of its candidate before the election.
According to him , the APC candidate fall short of the time hence his nomination is illegal. He added that the failure of the petitioners to call proper witnesses who conducted the election was fatal to the case and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for justice sake.
Ukala noted that out of the 5,792 forms available for the conduct of election, the APC and its candidate only tendered about 3000 which was contrary to the provision of the law.
Meanwhile, counsel to the APC and its candidate, Mr Akinlolu Olujimi (SAN) in his submission, urged the tribunal to grant his petition stressing that the burden of proof also rests with the respondents. According to him, though the card readers did not replace the voters’ registers but they were vital to credible accreditation. Olujimi urged the tribunal not to consider the issues raised by the respondents that the election was free and fair and credible.
By Olisemeka Obeche (with agency reports)