Rivers Rerun: PDP, APC Claim Victory in Court Judgment on Tai Election Result

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• Wike releases stadium to APC free of charge

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State have both claimed victory in the judgment of a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt over the results of Tai Local Government Area released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The PDP had dragged the INEC and the APC before the court after the electoral body in the state declared some of the results from Tai Local Government Area arising from the March 19 rerun elections in favour of the APC four months after the election.

Tai local government is one of the local governments that makes up the Rivers South-East senatorial district where Senator Magnus Abe is contesting.

Delivering judgment yesterday, presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Liman, ordered that the result of the places where elections were postponed and suspended in the March 19 rerun election should arise from the upcoming rerun election.

Liman, however, failed to state whether fresh elections should be held in all the units or whether INEC should only conduct elections where the results were yet to be concluded in the local government.

The judge went further to state that the APC cannot claim victory since INEC is yet to issue a certificate of return to its candidate, adding that only INEC can announce the result of any election. He also stated that the Law does not allow INEC to postpone election indefinitely without fixing a definite date.

However, both the APC and PDP are claiming the judgment is in their favour.

Speaking with journalists shortly after the judgment, counsel to the APC and its candidates, Mr. Baride Gwezia, said the court did not order for rerun and therefore the earlier 13,000 votes declared by INEC in favour of his clients stands.

He said: “The judge is courageous, he has done the right thing, there is no order to stop Tai elections. Elections will continue in the wards they have not conducted elections. That’s what the court says. The 13,000 votes remain with the APC.
On his part, counsel to the PDP, Mr. Dike Udenna, stated that the court granted the reliefs sought in the suit.

He said: “The judgment is that plaintiff’s case succeeds. Relief number one was granted which is that INEC has no powers to postpone elections without simultaneously fixing another date. Relief number 5 also succeeded but it was modified to read, the result of the election shall be arising from the rerun election. In other words, INEC has no powers to contrive figures or to declare results in an election that did not hold or that was postponed.”

The state chapter of the APC also said the judgment was in its favour.
In a statement issued yesterday in Port Harcourt, the state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone, said Liman only ordered for the conclusion of Tai rerun elections and not fresh elections.

The statement read in part: “The attention of the APC, has been drawn to the ruling made today in respect of TAI rerun elections and wishes to state that at no time did Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court sitting Port Harcourt nullify and/or ordered for a fresh rerun election in Tai. His order for the conclusion of the Tai rerun is merely in tandem with the position already announced by INEC that the commission will conduct elections in some wards and units in Tai come Saturday, December 10.

“It baffles the mind when members of the PDP, deliberately dispense blatant falsehood especially to the gullible on social media to the effect that the High Court judge ordered a fresh rerun election in Tai. The reference to a specific directive by the Justice for INEC to declare results based on the results filed from the field on December 10 as being bandied is as shady as it is spurious.

“We believe that Justice Liman knows the limit of the powers of his court with regard to the constitution and the law and would not have attempted to overreach himself in his ruling. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 133 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) recognises only an election tribunal and not the Federal High Court as having the power to affirm or nullify an election result declared by INEC.

The APC believes that the judgment did not differ in any way with the position already taken by INEC to conduct rerun elections in the few outstanding units and wards in Tai. It is too bad but not surprising that members of the PDP prefer to always live in denial by deceiving themselves.”

Meanwhile, the PDP has commended the court for its judgement which it said overruled INEC on the result the commission declared earlier.

The state Chairman of PDP, Felix Obuah, in a statement in Port Harcourt said “re-run election in Tai which was suspended mid-way by the electoral umpire was officially approved and binding, and that it would be illegal, illegitimate and morally wrong for the same INEC to want to release election results either in whole or parts from same election earlier suspended, said it has restored the hope of the people of Tai and South East senatorial district.”

He said he totally agreed to the court reasoning that attempting to declare the suspended Tai result would be tantamount to double standard by INEC who ab-initio created the confusion.

The state PDP Chairman also gave kudos on the order by the court that no results in whatever form emanating from the suspended March 19 Tai re-run election should be declared by INEC, stressing that the only acceptable re-run election in the area is the expected December 10, polls.

Obuah said the court judgement has restored the hope of the people of South East senatorial district, describing the attempt by the APC to get away with victory through the backdoor as a shame and failed mission
However, Wike has approved the request of the state chapter of the APC to use the Yakubu Gowon Stadium for its rally tomorrow.

In a statement  signed by the governor’s Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, noted that the governor directed that the stadium  be released to the APC free-of-charge.

The governor  directed the state Commissioner of Sports to ensure  that the APC  take possession of  the  facility as requested.
The state APC  Secretary, Chief Emeka Beke, had in a letter dated  December 2, 2016, requested the use of the Yakubu Gowon Stadium for the party’s  rally.