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Rivers Governorship Election: Why Tribunal Dismissed Awara, Fingesi’s Petitions

Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal has affirmed the re-election of Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike following the dismissal of the petition filed by the defeated African Action Congress ( AAC) Governorship Candidate, Biokpomabo Awara seeking the nullification of the March 9, Rivers State Governorship Election.

Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal has affirmed the re-election of Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike following the dismissal of the petition filed by the defeated African Action Congress ( AAC) Governorship Candidate, Biokpomabo Awara seeking the nullification of the March 9, Rivers State Governorship Election.

Also on Saturday, the Tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the defeated 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. The Tribunal 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 was read by  Justice K. B. Olawoyin .

The Tribunal declared that Governor Wike won 19 out of the 21 Local Government Areas where elections held, while the petitioner won in two Local Government Areas.

The Tribunal said the petitioner failed to call any witness to give credible evidence that there were Malpractices during the election that favoured Governor Wike.

The Tribunal also held that the first petitioner can no longer lead any general and nebulous evidence on violence.

The Tribunal declared that what was suspended was the Collation of results for 6 Local Government Areas. The declared that as at the time of the suspension of Collation, INEC  had concluded Collation of results in 17 Local Government Areas.

The Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal stated that by participating in the Collation Process, the petitioner waited his right to complain.

The Tribunal said that the petitioner called 20 witnesses. The Tribunal said it had earlier struck out the evidence of two witnesses. 

The Tribunal ruled that the results tendered by the petitioner, Awara Biokpomabo while giving evidence were inadmissible and therefore expunged from the records.

According to the Tribunal, the defeated AAC Governorship Candidate, Biokpomabo Awara tendered certified true copy of the State Governorship Election and the declaration of results by INEC.  The Tribunal noted that neither Awara Biokpomabo nor any of his witnesses tendered any results different from that of INEC .

The Tribunal said Awara Biokpomabo failed to call his polling unit agents to testify, even though he admitted that they were all alive.  The court held that PW3 to 19 who testified were alleged ward or Local Government agents, whose testimonies have been found not to be credible .

The Tribunal 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. The Tribunal held that the evidence of PW3 is contrary to the petitioner's pleadings in his petition.

The Tribunal said said Exhibits AA1 to A12 tendered by PW4 are inadmissible in evidence, because PW4 was not the maker. The Tribunal ruled that the documents were dumped on Tribunal,  with no polling agents called to give evidence. The Tribunal 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.

The evidence of PW 6 of the AAC Governorship Candidate was discredited under cross examination, the Tribunal noted. It added that the evidence of PW 6 contradicted his answers during Cross Examination. The Tribunal noted that PW 6 said that the election was peaceful. The Tribunal said that PW 6 is not a credible witness, as he lied under oath.

According to the Tribunal, 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.

The Tribunal held that the evidence of PW 7, Stanley Nweke, Ward Collation Agent in Omuma LGA is at variance with the pleadings of the petitioner. The Tribunal held that the evidence of PW 7 is of no value and was discountenanced.

The Tribunal also threw out the evidence of PW 9, Henry Iyalla whose name was not found in INEC's official list of Collation Agents. The Tribunal described PW 9 as an imposter,  saying that his evidence did not contradict the fact that election held in Degema LGA.

On PW 10, the Tribunal held that he did not tender any results of elections in the polling units. According to the Tribunal, the evidence of PW 10 goes 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, is a truthful witness, whose evidence is credible. The Tribunal placed probative value on his testimony.

The Tribunal also accepted the testimony of PW 22, Joseph Osademe, a producer with AIT, who tendered the video clip showing INEC officials declaring the Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike winner of the election.

The Tribunal also 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 Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike during the March 9, 2019 election. The Tribunal said the testimony of the Assistant Commissioner of Police is credible.

The Tribunal further stated that the fact that the first and second petitioners were opposed to each other is another ground to dismiss petition.

Determining the petition of the ADP Governorship Candidate, Mr Victor Fingesi on its merit, the Tribunal declared that the petitioner failed woefully to prove that Governor Wike did not score the highest number of lawful votes during the March 9, 2019 Governorship election.

Justice Orjiako declared that the petitioner's complaint is vague and merely speculative.

The Tribunal stated that the first petitioner did not know the number of registered voters in the state. The Tribunal further noted that the Petitioner under cross examination said 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. The Tribunal 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 is strictly on the petitioner and not on any weakness of the defence of the respondents.

The Tribunal agreed with INEC that election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.

The Tribunal examined 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.

The Tribunal also held that the defeated ADP Governorship Candidate lacks the locus standi to file the petition, having sued the first petitioner,  instead of Governor Wike who won the Governorship election.