Why Rivers elections tribunal should be disbanded, by PDP
THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called for disbandment of the National and State House of Assembly Elections Tribunal for Rivers State, alleging that it was illegally constituted.
Specifically, PDP alleged that the Chairman of the panel, Justice Victor Uchenna Okorie, was appointed in violation of Paragraphs 1 (1) and (2) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended, and therefore urged the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bukachuwa, to disband the polls tribunal.
The party’s position was conveyed vide a letter written to Bukachuwa by its counsel, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), and dated July 24, 2015.
In the letter, PDP argued that Justice Okorie, being a justice of the Customary Court of Appeal in Imo State and not a Justice of the High Court, is “not qualified to be appointed as a chairman of election tribunal.”
Besides writing to the President of the Court of Appeal to disband the tribunal, PDP has also filed an application before the tribunal itself, challenging its jurisdiction to continue to hear the petition filed by Senator Magnus Abe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Olaka Nwogu (winner of the Rivers South East Senatorial District election) and the PDP.
The letter reads in part: “We urge your Lordship to timeously look into this matter by taking appropriate steps to correct the anomaly by disbanding and re-constituting a new panel failing which we shall be constrained to take immediate steps by recourse to legal proceedings in the Federal High Court for the interpretation of the relevant statute as they touch and affect the said panel.”
PDP quoted Paragraph 1 (1) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution to read that: “A National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal shall consist of a chairman and two other members (1), the Chairman who shall be a judge of a High Court and the two other members shall be appointed from among judges of a High Court, Kadis of a Sharia Court of Appeal, judges of a Customary Court of Appeal or other members of the judiciary not below the rank of a Chief Magistrate.”
In a separate application filed before the tribunal, PDP is also praying for an order restraining the chairman of the tribunal, which is sitting at the Apo Division of Abuja High Court, from further presiding over proceedings as the chairman of the tribunal.
The party also prayed the tribunal to set aside all the directions issued, judicial rulings delivered and the entire proceedings of the tribunal from the date of the panel’s inaugural sitting till date.
The party argued that the tribunal lacks the competence and jurisdiction to sit as a tribunal having been constituted in violation of the constitution. “Justice Okorie, chairman of the tribunal, is not a judge of a High Court. Justice Okorie, chairman of the tribunal, is a Justice of the Customary Court of Appeal, Imo State. The President of the Court of Appeal violated the provisions of Paragraph 1(2) of the 6th Schedule to the Constitution (Second Alteration) Act 2011 when she failed to appoint a judge of the High Court as a chairman of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal for Rivers State (Part 1) sitting at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Apo, Abuja.
“The appointment of Justice Okorie, by the President of Court of Appeal to the extent of its inconsistency with the provisions of Paragraph 1(2) of the 6th Schedule to the Constitution is invalid, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever,” PDP said.