The Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, has alleged a conspiracy between the Independent National Electoral Commission and some judges to frustrate its petitions brought before various tribunals in respect of the March 28 and April 11 general elections in the state.
The Rivers APC’s allegation follows last week’s ruling by the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in the matters of Dr. Dawari George and Mr. Lucky Odili of Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Federal Constituency respectively.
The APC had filed petitions challenging the victory of Mr. Boma Goodhead of Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency and Prince Nnam Obi of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Federal Constituency; both of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The tribunal had dismissed the petitions on the grounds that the APC’s revised notice for the conduct of the party’s primaries for the said elections was not within the 21 days stipulated by the Electoral Act 2011.
The state APC Chairman, Dr. Davies Ikanya, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt on Monday, said that election petitions should not be thrown out on mere technicalities.
He noted that while his party was still grappling with the sacking of 22 elected council chairmen, a panel of judges presiding over the National Assembly election petitions tribunal had moved again to create its own laws outside the Electoral Act 2011.
Mr. Ikanya stressed that the situation denied George and Odili the right to fair hearing in their petitions against INEC and the PDP.
“The panel, had after several applications filed by the PDP to frustrate the suit at the early stage, decided to strike out the suits on the grounds of technicalities.
“The reason cited by the tribunal is based on section 85(1) of the Electoral Act 2011, which states that political parties shall give a 21-day notice to INEC before their primaries are held to choose their candidates, an act which the APC allegedly did not comply with.
“Incidentally, the Electoral Act 2011 under this section did not stipulate any punishment for flouting the said Act. Rather than hear the matter on its merits as warned by the Chief Justice of the Nigeria, the judges decided to introduce their own punishment, which is to strike out the matter.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the tribunals are empowered to hear only election matters and not pre-election matters, which is the exclusive preserve of the regular courts.
“This obvious travesty of justice negates the principle of the rule of law, which is borne out of the merits of a case and not mere technicalities – which is a negation of merits in election matters specifically”, Ikanya said.
The State APC chairman described PDP’s celebration of victory as premature and declared that there was no escape route for the current governor of the state, Chief Nyesom Wike and his followers.
Ikanya, however, said that while the APC had filed an appeal against the strange tribunal ruling, the PDP was deluding itself that all APC candidates, including the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, would also suffer similar fate.