The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Thursday reaffirmed its ex parte order made on June 11, 2015, granting permission to the All Progressives Congress and its candidate in the April 11, 2015 governorship election in the state, Dr. Dakuku 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 the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Nyemson Wike, in the poll.
The Justice Mu’azu Pindiga-led tribunal, in a ruling on Thursday, dismissed Wike’s application asking for the setting aside of the June 11, 2015 order.
Wike had argued that the tribunal’s order was wrongly made and asked that the tribunal could alternatively allow its agent to participate in the inspection to be undertaken by the petitioners.
He also asked the tribunal to vary the order in such a manner that the petitioners would not be allowed to make copies of some of the materials.
The PDP supported Wike’s application, while the Independent National Electoral Commission said it would await the outcome of the application to decide whether or not to obey the order for inspection.
Ruling on Thursday, Justice Pindiga rejected Wike’s application on the grounds that it lacked merit.
The judge noted that the order made on June 11 was in accordance with the provision of Section 151 of the Electoral Act and was directed at INEC, and not Wike.
The judge ruled, “There is the need for us to clarify the order we made on June 11. The order was made against INEC to allow the petitioners access, inspect and obtain the certified true copies of election materials in respect of the governorship election in the state.
“The order was made in accordance with the provision of Section 151 of the Electoral Act. The order still stands.”
He adjourned till July 22 for the commencement of the pre-hearing session in the petition.
During the hearing of Wike’s application on July 6, 2015, Peterside and the APC had accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of frustrating their bid to inspect the electoral materials used for the poll.
The petitioners’ lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN) told the tribunal that INEC had continued to refuse his clients’ agents to inspect the election materials, a development which he described as a manifestation of an alliance between INEC, Wike and the PDP to frustrate the hearing of the petition.
But INEC, Wike and PDP, while justifying the refusal of INEC to allow the petitioners to inspect the electoral materials, argued that it would have been wrong for the electoral umpire to allow the inspection when Wike’s applications challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction and the propriety of the June 11 order, were pending.
Olujinmi, in a counter-argument to Wike’s application, urged the tribunal to, among others, urged the tribunal to dismiss the application on the grounds that the order allowing the inspection of the electoral materials was not directed at him (Wike), but at INEC.
He said, “We have shown that INEC has not objected to the tribunal’s order and today, they have confessed before the tribunal that they disobeyed the order for inspection because the 2nd respondent (Wike) filed a motion seeking the setting aside of the order.