Supreme Court dismisses Wike’s suit against Rivers tribunal
The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an interlocutory appeal filed by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the propriety and power of the governorship election petition tribunal to sit in Abuja instead of Port Harcourt, the state capital.
Delivering its verdict on Wike’s appeal, the apex court held that it lacked merit and substance and was thrown out in its entirety.
In the judgment delivered by Justice Amiru Sanusi, the court said the decision of the said tribunal to sit in Abuja rather than Port Harcourt was in order because it was taken as a security measure. Justice Sanusi said that President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bukachuwa’s decision for the tribunal to sit in Abuja was to ensure protection of lives of the tribunal members and other stakeholders.
He held that there was compelling evidence of security challenges prevailing in Rivers State as at the time the panel was constituted. He further held that the court cannot be bound in the decision in Ibori’s case which was cited by the appellant.
The court further noted that in the Ibori case, it was not the President of the Court of Appeal that relocated the tribunal and that there was no situation of insecurity as at then.
The court’s judgment reads in part: “But in the instant case, it was the President of the Court of Appeal that relocated the tribunal to Abuja because of insecurity, it was this situation that demanded for a doctrine of necessity which made the President of the Court to relocate the tribunal to Abuja to protect the lives of the members of the panel.
“I agree with the Court of Appeal that the President of the Court of Appeal is right in relocating the panel to Abuja.
“On the whole, I hold that the tribunal was properly constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal even without consultation with the Chief Judge of Rivers State or the President of the Customary Court, even though, as at then, there was no Chief Judge, and there was no President of the Customary Court. The consultation here is not as to the venue of the sitting but to get judges in Rivers State that will be part of the various election petition tribunals.
“It is necessary to protect members of the panel from the theatre of war to where their lives will be secured.
“The President of the Court of Appeal has the power and has judiciously utilized the power. The panel is properly constituted and it is not bereft of jurisdiction to hear the petition of the petitioner. The appeal lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed.”
The tribunal which sat in Abuja had last Saturday nullified the April 11 governorship election which returned Wike of the PDP as governor and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC} to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.
However, before the Saturday judgment by the tribunal, Wike’s appeal had been pending before the apex court, wherein he was challenging the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja.
At the Court of Appeal, the panel of justices had upheld the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja on ground of insecurity in Rivers State. Dissatisfied, Wike had gone to the apex court, seeking to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and the ruling of the petition tribunal on the jurisdiction. But a full panel of the apex court in their unanimous decision dismissed the appeal by Wike and PDP for lacking in merit.