Law News
Rivers: Tribunal dismisses Wike’s N100 filing fee objection

The Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Monday rejected another application by the state governor, Nyesom Wike, asking for the dismissal of the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress’ candidate in the April 11, 2015 poll, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.

Both Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission had filed separate applications praying for the dismissal of the petition challenging his (Wike’s) victory at the poll on the grounds that the petitioners failed to pay the N100 said to be prescribed as a fee for the issuance of the pre-hearing notice.

The Justice Mu’azu Pindiga-led tribunal’s two separate rulings dismissing the applications on Monday were part of the string of recent decisions of the tribunal rejecting applications by the respondents to stop the hearing of the case.

Various interlocutory applications by the respondents had prevented the tribunal from proceeding to the hearing of the main petition three months after it was filed, despite the statutory 180-day period within which the petition must be heard and determined.

In separate rulings on the applications by Wike and INEC, the tribunal on Monday held that the application for issuance of a pre-hearing notice was not part of the documents for which a filing fee must be paid as prescribed in paragraph 37(4) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act.

The tribunal also held that contrary to the applicants’ contention, the petitioners validly applied for the issuance of the pre-hearing notice (Forms TF 007 and TF 008) within seven days of exchanging the necessary replies between the petitioners and the respondents, as stipulated by law.

“There is no defect in the pre-hearing notice. The tribunal, therefore, holds that the application filed by the 1st respondent (INEC) is, hereby, discountenanced and accordingly dismissed,” Justice Pindiga ruled.

The tribunal also adopted the same ruling on Wike’s application.

Through their respective lawyers, Wike and INEC had argued that the failure of the petitioners to pay the fee constituted an infringement on the provisions of Paragraphs 18(1), (3) and 47 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act as amended.

Wike’s lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), had while arguing the application on August 15, urged the tribunal to be persuaded by a ruling delivered by the Imo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, in Owerri, on July 22, 2015 and which dismissed a governorship petition based on the petitioner’s failure to pay the N100 fee.

INEC’s lawyer, Chief K. C Njamanze (SAN), who also canvassed the same argument, said the payment of the fee was a condition precedent for the tribunal to assume jurisdiction on the petition.

But counsel for Peterside and the APC, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), had asked the tribunal to dismiss the respondents’ applications for lacking in merit.

Olujinmi insisted that since the application for the pre-hearing notice was by a letter to the secretary to the tribunal, his clients were not liable to pay for filing fee as such was not specifically provided for in any law.

He added that even if his clients were required to pay the fee, failure to do so could only amount to a mere irregularity which the tribunal could direct them to pay at any time.

He urged the tribunal not to allow the justice of the petition to be defeated by mere technicality upon which the respondents’ applications were predicated.

Meanwhile, the tribunal also on Monday heard and adjourned till Wednesday ruling on five separate applications filed by parties to the petition.

One of the petitions was filed by INEC while two of them were filed by Wike just as the two others were filed by the petitioners. The PDP did not file any application.

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