Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the elections of Rivers, Ogun and Ebonyi states’ Governors.
While the decision of the apex court to clear Ibikunle Amosun and Dave Umahi of Ogun and Ebonyi to continue in office were widely expected, the upholding of the controversial polls that produced Mr. Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike as governor of Rivers was yet another surprise package from the judiciary.
The court, in three unanimous judgments in the appeals filed by Wike, his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), set aside the concurrent judgments of the Rivers State governorship election and the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Although Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who read the lead judgments in the three appeals, said she will provide details of the decision to uphold the return of Wike as winner of the election on February 12, she insisted Wike’s controversial victory on the April 11 poll was meritorious.
Her judgment read in parts: “I find and hold that this appeal is meritorious and it is allowed. The judgment of the lower court delivered on the 16th of November 2015 and the judgment of the tribunal delivered on 24th October 2015 are hereby set aside.
“The petition of the petitioners is dismissed. The return of Nyesom Wike as governor of Rivers State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is restored.”
Justices Ibrahim Mohammed, Sylvester Ngwuta, Kumai Akaahs and Amiru Sanusi, who were members of the panel, agreed with Justice Kekere-Ekun’s lead judgment.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dakuku Peterside, and his party had gone before the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal to challenge Wike’s return by INEC as the winner of the governorship election claiming widespread irregularities and violent conduct in many areas across the state.
The tribunal, which sat in Abuja, held in its judgment of October 24, 2015, in favour of the petitioners, voided the election on grounds of widespread violence and non-compliance with the Electoral Act. It ordered a rerun election within 90 days.
Wike, PDP and INEC appealed the tribunal’s decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja. The appellate court, in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel on November 16, 2015, upheld the tribunal’s judgment.
Both decisions were set aside by the apex court in the judgment given around 6.30pm on Wednesday, sparking off wild celebrations amongst Wike’s supporters and party members across the state and mocking of APC and Peterside.
Chairman of Rivers State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Felix Obuah has dedicated Governor Wike’s victory at the Supreme Court to God. Obuah in a statement on Wednesday in a statement issued through his media aide, Mr Jerry Needam, urged Rivers people, irrespective of party affiliations to join hands with the governor to move the state forward.
Similarly, the apex court in a unanimous decision, dismissed the appeal by the PDP governorship candidate in Ogun State, Adegboyega Isiaka. Mr. Isiaka had challenged the judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Ogun State Governorship Election Tribunal, which upheld the election of Ibikunle Amosun as governor.
However, Justice Akaahs, who read the lead judgment held that the appeal lacked merit and dismissed it.
The apex court equally dismissed the appeal by the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in Ebonyi State, Edward Nkwegu.
Justice Chima Centus Nweze, who read the lead judgment, held that the preliminary objection raised by Umahi succeeds in part but resolved the two issues on the main appeal against the appellant.
“No merit in this appeal. Umahi is the duly elected governor of Ebonyi State. Reasons will be given on Friday, January 29,” he held.
By Olisemeka Obeche