Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal has affirmed the re-election of Governor Nyesom Wike following the dismissal of the petition filed by the African Action Congress (AAC) governorship candidate, Biokpomabo Awara, seeking the nullification of the March 9, Rivers guber poll.
Also yesterday, the tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the Action Democratic Party (ADP) governorship candidate, Mr Victor Fingesi, against the election of Governor Wike.
“We affirm the election of Nyesom Ezenwo Wike as duly elected”, the tribunal declared.
The tribunal declared that both petitioners failed to prove their petitions beyond reasonable doubt.
It stressed that they failed to adduce evidence to prove that the election was marred by violence and irregularities.
The judgment of the tribunal in the AAC petition read by Justice K. B. Olawoyin declared that Wike won 19 out of the 21 local government areas where elections held while the petitioner won in two local government areas.
Also, the tribunal said the petitioner failed to call any witness to give credible evidence that there were malpractices during the election that favoured Wike.
The tribunal also held that the first petitioner could no longer lead any general and nebulous evidence on violence.
It declared that what was suspended was the collation of results for six local government areas, adding that as at the time of the suspension of collation, INEC had concluded collation of results in 17 LGAs.
The tribunal stated that by participating in the collation process, the petitioner waited his right to complain.
According to the tribunal, the petitioner called 20 witnesses, stating that it had earlier struck out the evidence of two witnesses.
It ruled that the results tendered by the petitioner, Awara, while giving evidence were inadmissible and, therefore, expunged from the records.
According to the tribunal, the defeated AAC governorship candidate, Awara, tendered certified true copy of the State Governorship Election and the declaration of results by INEC.
It noted that neither Awara nor any of his witnesses, tendered any results different from that of INEC.
The tribunal said Awara failed to call his polling unit agents to testify, even though he admitted that they were all alive. The court held that petitioner witness (PW) three to 19, who testified, were alleged ward or local government agents, whose testimonies have been found not to be credible.
Also, it added that even the results tendered by Awara, had no names of polling unit agents, no signatures of polling units agents and had no INEC stamp. The tribunal, therefore, declared the said results inadmissible and of no value.
The tribunal ruled that petitioner witness (PW) 3 is not a credible witness and his evidence is disregarded while holding that the evidence of PW3 was contrary to the petitioner’s pleadings in his petition.
According to the tribunal, exhibits A1 to A12 tendered by PW4 were inadmissible in evidence, because PW4 was not the maker.
It ruled that the documents were dumped on tribunal, with no polling agents called to give evidence just as it expunged the exhibits from its records.
The tribunal said that the evidence of PW4 has no value as it has not proved any electoral malpractice, adding that the evidence of PW 6 of the AAC governorship candidate was discredited under cross examination.
It also said that the evidence of PW6 contradicted his answers during cross examination as it said that the election was peaceful, noting that PW6 was not a credible witness, as he lied under oath.
The tribunal noted that aside the names of the witnesses and their respective wards, the witness statements of all of them were the same and each had seven paragraphs.
It further held that the evidence of PW7, Stanley Nweke, ward collation agent in Omuma LGA, was at variance with the pleadings of the petitioner. The tribunal held that the evidence of PW7 was of no value and was discountenanced.
It also threw out the evidence of PW9, Henry Iyalla, whose name was not found in INEC’s official list of collation agents.
It described PW9 as an imposter, saying that his evidence did not contradict the fact that election held in Degema LGA.
On PW10, the tribunal held that he did not tender any results of elections in the polling units, adding that the evidence of PW10 went to no issue because it contradicted the results pleaded by the petitioner.
The tribunal held that most of the witnesses of the AAC were not credible as they discredited themselves by contradictory statements.
The tribunal noted, however, that PW 21, the State Collation Agent of AAC, Mr Nenye Kocha, has been consistent in his testimony from collation to the tribunal that the AAC lost the governorship election.
The AAC governorship collation agent, according to the tribunal, was a truthful witness, whose evidence is credible, saying that it placed probative value on his testimony.
It also accepted the testimony of PW22, Joseph Osademe, a producer with AIT, who tendered the video clip showing INEC officials declaring the Rivers State governor, Wike, winner of the election.
Also, it placed value on the document tendered by Assistant Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, ACP Victor Onugbo. The document tendered by the Police before the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, authenticated the electoral victory of Wike during the March 9, 2019 election. The tribunal said the testimony of the Assistant Commissioner of Police was credible.
It further stated that the fact that the first and second petitioners were opposed to each other, was another ground to dismiss the petition.
Determining earlier, the petition of the ADP governorship candidate, Mr Victor Fingesi on its merit, the tribunal declared that the petitioner failed woefully to prove that Wike did not score the highest number of lawful votes during the March 9, guber poll.
Justice Orjiako declared that the petitioner’s complaint was vague and merely speculative.
The tribunal stated that the first petitioner did not know the number of registered voters in the state. The tribunal noted that the petitioner under cross-examination, said that he had no knowledge of the number of registered voters in his own polling unit in Okrika LGA.
The tribunal declared an allegation that the winner did not score the highest number of votes is an invitation to compare figures. It held that the petitioner ought to plead his own results and that of the winner for the court to cross check.
Justice Orjiako noted that there was no evidence of any alleged inflation of results as the evidence remains vague.
The tribunal held that the burden of proof was strictly on the petitioner and not on any weakness of the defence of the respondents.
It agreed with INEC that election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
Also, it said the testimonies of the witnesses of the ADP were mere hearsay, since most of them were not at the respective polling units, where elections took place.
The tribunal described most of the witnesses of ADP as impostors, who capitulated in the face of cross-examination. The tribunal examined the testimonies on a local government by local government basis.
According to the tribunal, despite the litany of documents pleaded by the petitioner, he could only tender newspaper reports.
The tribunal said that INEC has the power to suspend an election in line with Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
Also, It held that the defeated ADP governorship candidate lacked the locus standi to file the petition, having sued the first petitioner, instead of Governor Wike who won the governorship election.