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Rivers APC loses to PDP as Appeal Court strikes out evidence against security agents

courtTHE Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Mr. Dakuku Peterside yesterday at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division failed in their quest to reinstate all paragraphs containing allegations of electoral crime against named and un-named security agents and alleged political thugs in an interlocutory appeal they filed against the ruling of the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal expunging same from the tribunal’s record.

The Court of Appeal finally expunged from judicial records of the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal all the evidences against named and un-named security agents and named and un-named political thugs in the petition filed by Peterside against the election of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

The Court of Appeal also dismissed an application by the APC, praying the court to constitute a new panel to hear the appeal arising from the judgment of the Justice Suleiman Ambrosa-led Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

The Rivers State APC had appealed an interlocutory ruling of the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal wherein all the evidences against named and un-named security agents and named and un-named political thugs were struck out from the records of the tribunal because the Rivers State APC failed to join the said security agents and political thugs in their petition.

However, the tribunal took into consideration the evidences against the security agents and alleged political thugs in their judgment, relying on them despite the earlier interlocutory ruling of the tribunal.

In the judgment of the three-man panel presided over by Justice Datti Yahaya and including Justice Tanim Yusuf and Justice Mustapha Mohammed, the Court of Appeal held that evidences that were led against security agents and political thugs, whether named and un-named in the course of the hearing of the petition filed by the Rivers State APC governorship candidate against the election of Wike where the said security agents and alleged political thugs were not joined as parties should be struck out.

The Court of Appeal further ordered that all the criminal allegations contained in the petition against the said security agents and alleged political thugs be expunged as they had no opportunity to defend themselves at the tribunal .

The court held that in cases where criminal allegations are made against institutions, agents and individuals, they were expected to be joined as parties to the suit.

On the application brought by the Rivers State APC, praying the President of the Court to constitute a new panel to hear the appeal on the Justice Suleiman Ambrosa-led Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, counsel to the PDP, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, urged the Court to disregard the application as it was tantamount to disqualifying itself from hearing the appeal for no just reason.

Counsel to Wike, Mr. Osima Ginah said the application for the re-constitution of the Appeal Court Panel via a letter written by the Rivers State APC on October 28,2015 and brought to the attention of the Court yesterday should be dismissed by the court.

It would be recalled that Justice Ambrosa had in his judgment at the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal relied copiously on the testimonies of soldiers, mobile policemen and Directorate of State Security operatives who alleged electoral crimes in the course of the April 11 governorship election in the state.

Ginah, addressing journalists after the judgement, declared that the Court of Appeal judgment implies that all statements credited to the said security agents will be expunged from the records of the tribunal and will no longer form part of the appeal process.

Ginah said yesterday’s judgment of the Court of Appeal has strengthened the case of Wike as the second leg Rivers State APC petition has been pulled out, pointing out that the other pillar of their case, the card reader accreditation is no longer tenable following decisions by superior courts on the matter.

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