Appeal Court dismisses ADP’s suit against Wike’s reelection
The Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt yesterday dismissed governorship candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Victor Fingesi’s suit challenging Governor Nyesom Wike’s victory in the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State for lack of merit. He had approached the Court of Appeal through his counsel, Dolapo Attoni, after the governorship election tribunal on October 5, 2019 dismissed his petition and declined his application to amend some clerical errors in his petition.
Fingesi, who scored 1, 860 votes in the poll, had filed a petition in the tribunal to challenge Wike’s re-election. Justice H. N. Ogunwimiji, who delivered the lead judgment of the five-man panel, explained that Fingesi failed to prove before the appellate court that the election was marred by irregularities. She stated that anyone who asserts must provide relevant evidence to prove such allegations. And in the absence of any credible evidence to prove that the polls were married by irregularities, she declared that Fingesi’s suit lacked merit and as such the appeal was incompetent.
On ADP’s contention that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s) decision to suspend the announcement of the election results, the court ruled that INEC has the power to take action on elections when emergencies arise.
The Appeal Court explained that INEC derived its powers from Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act. The Guardian recalled that INEC had suspended the collation of the Rivers State governorship election results following soldiers’ invasion of the collation centre. Ruling on the issue of locus standi raised by the appellant, she declared that the tribunal had the right to determine whether he had locus standi in the matter.
She, therefore, upheld the tribunal’s position that he (Fingesi) lacked the locus standi to file the petition seeking to invalidate the declaration of Wike as winner of the polls. Ruling on the tribunal’s refusal to grant Fingesi’s application for an amendment of some typographic error in his petition, she noted that the tribunal could have granted the amendments sought because they were infinitesimal to the substance of the matter.However, she said since amendment was sought after the deadline for filing petition had elapsed the tribunal was right to have declined his request.
INEC Counsel, Garba Tetengi (SAN) told journalists that the appeal was struck out for incompetence. Counsel to Rivers State Governor, Ike Udenna explained that the implication of the appellate court’s dismissal of Fingesi’s case was that the tribunal was right to uphold Wike’s election.
The Rivers State governorship election tribunal had declared that Fingesi failed to prove that Governor Wike did not score the highest number of lawful votes during the March 9, 2019 governorship election. It also declared that the petitioner’s complaint was “vague and merely speculative, hence, it was an adventure to discover the non-existent.”
Reacting to the judgment, Attoni said his client would determine the next line of action to be taken. “Before now, we had sought an amendment of what we felt were obvious clerical errors. The tribunal declined. We appealed and the Court of Appeal declined.“It is for my client to decide whether to go on appeal or accept the Court of Appeal verdict,” he stated.
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