ABUJA-The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, has slated Monday to decide whether it has the jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions challenging Governor Nyesom Wike’s election, outside Rivers state.
The Justice Pindiga-led panel adjourned for ruling after it heard a preliminary objection that was moved this morning by counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN.
In its motion, INEC challenged the legality of the tribunal which it said ought to have in line with section 285(2) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, conducted its proceedings in Rivers state instead of Abuja.
It insisted that going by the aforementioned section of the constitution under which the tribunal was established, “a tribunal sitting in Abuja cannot qualify as a tribunal established in Rivers state”.
Besides, INEC contended that the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, lacked the powers to relocate the tribunal to Abuja when a state of emergency has not been declared in Rivers State.
“The reason ascribed to this anomaly is that there was pandemonium, chaos in Rivers State. My lords should take judicial notice that the Court of Appeal is currently sitting in that state, even the Federal High Court too. The seat of government is there and very functional.
“It is our contention that the only constitutionally exception to the provision of section 285(2), is in line with section 304 of the constitution dealing with the power of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria declaring a state of emergency in any state. There is no such declaration in Rivers State till date.
“The power vested on the President of the Court of Appeal is not such that enables her to override the provisions of the constitution”, INEC lawyer submitted.