Law News
Wike loses again

THE Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal by Governor Nyesom Wike and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on the relocation of Rivers State governorship election petition tribunal to Abuja.

The apex court, in a unanimous judgment yesterday, held that the appeal “lacked merit and substance”.

The court dismissed it “in its entirety”.

Justice Amiru Sanusi, who read the judgment on the interlocutory appeal, upheld the earlier decisions by the tribunal and the Court of Appeal that the tribunal’s relocation to Abuja from Port Harcourt, was in order because it was informed by security challenges.

The tribunal last Saturday nullified Wike’s election in its judgment in the petition by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Dakuku Peterside.

Justice Sanusi held that evidence abound that there were security challenges in Rivers State when the tribunal was moved to Abuja.

He said the court was not bound by an earlier decision in the case involving former Delta State Governor James Ibori  that tribunals must sit in a state where election was held to determine dispute from such election.

The justice said the Ibori case was not binding where the relocation was effected by the tribunal’s constituting authority – the president of the Court of Appeal – and the relocation informed by security challenges.

Justice Sanusi observed that in the Ibori case, the relocation of the tribunal was not by the president of the Court of Appeal, and that the relocation was not on the grounds of insecurity.

“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 a doctrine of necessity which made the president of the Court of Appeal to relocate the tribunal to Abuja to protect the lives of 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 by relocating them 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 utilised the power.

“The panel is properly constituted and it is not bereft of jurisdiction to hear the petition of the petitioners. The appeal lacks merit, and it is hereby dismissed,” Justice Sanusi said.

The Rivers tribunal was one of the tribunals relocated to Abuja on security grounds following its inability to conduct its proceedings in Port-Harcourt, the state capital.

Others are those of Akwa Ibom, Yobe, Borno, Admawa and Taraba states.

Uncomfortable with the tribunal’s movement to Abuja, Wike and PDP objected to its sitting in Abuja, relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Ibori case.

The tribunal dismissed the objection to its jurisdiction to hear the petition in Abuja. It held that it could sit outside the state where election was held to decide any dispute arising from such election where security was a challenge.

The Court of Appeal, Abuja, upheld the tribunal’s decision as it relates to its jurisdiction to sit in Abuja, following which Wike and his party appealed to the Supreme Court.

A panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice John Fabiyi, heard the Appeal by Wike on October 16 and fixed judgment for yesterday.

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