The Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja has dismissed four out of the five petitions filed to challenge the election of Chief Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party as the governor of the state.
The only surviving petition challenging the declaration of Wike as the winner of the April 11 poll is the one filed by the All Progressives Congress and its governorship candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
Though, one of the four petitions marked EPT/RV/GOV/05/2015 was voluntarily withdrawn by the petitioner, Kemka Elenwo, who was KOWA Party’s governorship candidate in the election, the three others were dismissed on technical grounds based on the application by Wike and the PDP.
The Justice Mu’azu Pindiga-led tribunal on Wednesday dismissed the fourth petition marked EPT/RV/GOV/03/2015 which was filed by Minaibim Harry of the Social Democratic Party on the grounds that the petition was incompetent.
The tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition since the two grounds on which it was anchored were defective because they were not in strict compliance with the provisions of Section 138(1)(a) to (d) of the Electoral Act.
The said provision of the Electoral Act prescribes the grounds on which an election petition can be filed.
Other petitions that have been dismissed by the tribunal are, the one solely filed by the Labour Party (EPT/RV/GOV/01/2015) and another by the All Progressives Grand Alliance and its candidate, Charles Harry (EPT/RV/GOV/02/2015).
In its ruling on July 31, while dismissing the petition by Labour Party which fielded Tonye Princewill in the April 11 election, Justice Pindiga held that the party did not have a candidate for the election, having not complied with the requirement under Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act (EA) 2010.
It noted that the notice given by the petitioner to INEC of its intention to conduct primary election from which the petitioner’s candidate purportedly emerged, “is less than the mandatory 21 days required by Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act.
“By implication, the effect of this non-compliance, is that no valid primary election was conducted and held by the petitioner and its purported candidate.”
The tribunal also found that the petitioner did not comply with the required procedure for applying for the issuance of pre-hearing notice, a defualt which rendered the petition abandoned.
“It is clear from the wordings of Paragraph 18(1) of the 1st Schedule of the EA that application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice, as in Form 008, shall be made after filling and service of the petitioner’s reply.
“We hold that this was not complied with in this petition. The application for issuance of pre-hearing notice was filed on June 18, 2015 a period when pleadings had not been fully exchanged.
“The implication of the above is that there is no proper application for issuance of notice of pre-hearing in view of the above by the provisions of Paragraph 18(4) & (5) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act.
“Once pleadings close and either party fails to make an application for pre-hearing, the tribunal is empowered, under Paragraph 18(4) to dismiss the petition as abandoned.
“Therefore, with the combine effect of non-compliance with the provision of Section 85(1) of the EA, sections 137 and 138 of the same EA in addition to the provision of paragraphs 18(1), (4) and (5), this petition is hereby dismissed for being incompetent and also abandoned.”