An Appeal court sitting in Lagos has affirmed the election of Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara.
The Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed the judgment of the election tribunal, dismissing four separate appeals filed by Tonye Cole of All Progressives Congress (APC), Beatrice Itubo of the Labour Party (LP), Innocent Ekwu of the Allied People’s Movement (APM), and Lulu Briggs Dumo of the Accord Party.
The APC candidate, who was present in the courtroom on Tuesday, wanted the court to direct the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare him the winner of the March governorship election in Rivers.
The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had in October dismissed the petition of Cole challenging the election of Fubara as the governor of the state.
The tribunal had dismissed the petition saying that the APC that sponsored Cole had withdrawn the petition against Fubara’s victory.
Not satisfied with the Tribunal’s victory, the APC candidate approached the appellate court. However, the court on Tuesday affirmed the Tribunal ruling which earlier upheld Fubara’s electoral victory in October.
Justice Ridwan Maiwada Abdullahi (absent), Justice Olabode Adegbehingbe
and Justice Bature Isa Gafa, held that the fact that APC seized to be a party to the case did not make Cole’s petition invalid. The judges concluded that the Tribunal was in error to have struck out that item of the petition.
“A political party cannot compel a candidate to withdraw a petition neither can a candidate compel the party to withdraw.” Justice Adegbehingbe ruled.
However, on the other grounds, the court held that the appellants’ evidence were inadequate in proving the allegations of over-voting, disenfranchisement and other alleged irregularities.
The grounds bordering on fraud and whether Fubara was qualified to have contested the election were struck out based on unconvincing evidence. Cole cited allegations of irregularities and Fubara’s continued signing of documents as the State’s Accountant-General after his PDP nomination.
The court held that all the appellants failed to prove the allegation of non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
In his immediate reaction, Cole said the appellate court’s judgment has given him and his legal team a greenlight, and that will determine their next line of action.