Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
A Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt yesterday upheld the re-election of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, as it struck out the appeal filed by the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr. Victor Fingesi.
Fingesi had approached the Court of Appeal after Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal on October 5 dismissed his petition challenging the re-election of Wike, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate during the 2019 election. In a unanimous judgment, the court struck out the appeal filed by Fingesi of ADP for lacking in merit. It also said the appeal was incompetent.
Reading the lead judgment, Justice H.N Ogunwimiji, declared that the ADP governorship candidate failed to prove that the election was marred by irregularities, adding that the candidate could not adduce evidence that would invalidate Wike’s election.
The Court of Appeal ruled that anyone who asserts must give relevant evidence to prove such allegations.
The court also declared that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the power to take action on elections when emergencies arise, explaining that the commission derived such powers from Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act.
The Court of Appeal also held that the petitioner lacked the locus standi to file a petition against the ruling of Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal.
Justice T.N Orji Ababua, Justice U. Omyenenn, Justice H.A Barka and Justice I.B Idiris agreed with the lead judgment.
Reacting to the appellate judgement, INEC Counsel, Dr. Garba Tetengi, said the appeal was struck out for incompetence.
Also, the counsel to Rivers State Governor, Ike Udenna, said the Court of Appeal came to the conclusion that the tribunal was right to uphold Wike’s election.
It would be recalled that Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal had declared that the petitioner (ADP governorship candidate) failed woefully to prove that Wike did not score the highest number of lawful votes during the March 9 governorship election in the state. The tribunal declared that the petitioner’s complaint was vague and merely speculative.
The tribunal described ADP’s petition as “an adventure to discover the non-existent.”
INEC had declared Wike re-elected after he polled 886,264 votes, while his closest challenger, the African Alliance Congress (AAC) governorship candidate, Biokpomabo Awara, scored 173,859 votes.
Fingesi polled 1,860 votes during the 2019 Rivers State governorship election.