The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, slated Monday to decide whether or not to dismiss the petition that was filed against Governor Nyesom Wike by the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The Justice Muazu Pindiga-led tribunal adjourned for ruling on a day APC and its governorship candidate in Rivers State, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, accused Governor Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of plotting to hijack the proceeding of the tribunal.
The petitioners made the allegation following two separate applications challenging the continued hearing of the petition seeking to annul the April 11 governorship election in Rivers State.
The applications were filed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Governor Wike.
The two defendants, through their various lawyers, yesterday, challenged the proceeding of the tribunal, insisting that pre-hearing session on the petition by the APC was not properly convoked.
INEC through its lawyer Mr. K.O.C. Njemanze, SAN, applied for an order dismissing the petition as being abandoned in consequence of non compliance with the provision of paragraph 18(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act.
INEC’s motion dated July 27, was filed pursuant to section 6(6) (a) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, and paragraphs 18(1) (3) and (47) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act.
The electoral body maintained that the petitioners failed to pay the necessary fees before they applied to the Secretary of the tribunal to issue them Form TF007, which will okay pre-hearing on the petition.
“It is our submission that payment of filing fee for such application is statutory and constitutes a condition precedent for the invocation of the jurisdiction of this tribunal.’’
“In the circumstance we submit that in the eyes of the law, there is no application for pre-hearing session. We therefore urge this tribunal to dismiss this petition as abandoned”, INEC added.
Similarly, Wike, through his lawyer Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, relied on the case of Ihedioha vs Okorocha and argued that the failure of the petitioners to properly apply for the pre-hearing session rendered the case before the tribunal liable to be dismissed.
Wike noted that the Imo State Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal had in a ruling it delivered on July 22, held that the failure of Ihedioha to pay the N100 filing fee in respect of an application for pre-hearing was fatal to his petition against Okorocha.
“It is clear that the application by the petitioners in this matter bears no receipt of any payment and therefore ought to be dismissed”, Wike argued.
The PDP through its lawyer Mr. Goddy Uche, aligned with INEC and Wike, saying “the petition is dead and should be given a befitting burial”.
The defendants contended that the tribunal could not take any further step on the matter until the competence of the pre-hearing application is determined.
Meantime, counsel to the petitioners, Chief Akinlolu Olujunmi, SAN, yesterday, prayed the tribunal to dismiss the two applications as lacking in merit.
Olujunmi urged the tribunal not to allow the defendants to rely on technicalities to defeat the course of justice, saying there is no specific provision of the law that made payment of N100 filing fee mandatory.
Arguing that the tribunal has the discretion to proceed with hearing the petition or to direct the petitioners to go and pay the fee, Olujunmi, SAN, urged the panel to be wary of plot by the defendants to take over its proceedings.
“I urge your lordships to be extra-vigilant and not allow the respondents to high-jack the proceeding of this tribunal”, the APC lawyer pleaded.
After listening to all the parties yesterday, the Justice Pindiga-led panel adjourned for ruling.
It will be recalled that the proceeding of the tribunal was stalled on Thursday owing to failure of governor Wike and the PDP to respond to the pre-hearing application by the APC.
The application by the APC will allow the tribunal to begin full-blown hearing on the petition seeking to annul the election that brought governor Wike to power.
Both APC and Peterside are praying the tribunal to sack Wike from office on the premise that the Rivers State governorship poll was not only fraught with manifest irregularities, but was also conducted with total disregard to relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.
The petitioners want the tribunal to void the election and order a fresh governorship poll in the state.
So far, four other petitions that were lodged against Wike before the tribunal have been dismissed.
Wike meets PDP senators, Orubebe
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike on Thursday received the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership in the Senate in Rumuepirikom, his country home in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.
The PDP delegation was led by the Senate Minority Leader, Philip Aduda.
Also a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe met with Wike
Orubebe recently resigned from the Peoples Democratic Party.
In attendance at the meeting were the Senate Minority Whip, Chukwuka Utazi; Shuaibu Lau, Danjuma La’ah and Barry Mpigi.
A Government House source said the senators arrived at the governor’s residence some minutes past 3pm and immediately went into a closed door with their host.
The outcomes of the separate meetings were not made public.
ADC presidential candidate denies tax fraud allegations in US
The presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dumebi Kachikwu, has denied allegations of tax fraud in the United States.
Kachikwu said this in a statement on Wednesday titled, ‘Allegations of tax evasion, fraud against me untrue, politically motivated’.
The presidential candidate said the allegations were propagated by his political opponents who were unhappy with his victory at the ADC Presidential primary.
The Roots TV boss, therefore, asked supporters to ignore online reports that the US government had indicted him for tax evasion running into millions of dollars.
The statement read in part, “A few days ago, my campaign team received information that one of the aspirants who lost out in the just concluded ADC presidential primaries was planning a series of smear campaigns against me.
“I was therefore not surprised when I saw this story. Contrary to the information being peddled, I was assessed an additional $9m several years ago by the US Inland Revenue Service.
“This amount was reduced to $2m and when the IRS sued to collect the amount, my lawyers didn’t contest it and instead waited for a default judgement in order to go to the next stage which is making an offer in compromise to reduce the amount to be paid. This is a standard legal practice in tax matters.”
Kachikwu also denied allegations that he delivered a bribe to convicted US Congressman, William Jefferson.
The ADC candidate said rather, he was the one who reported the former Congressman to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The statement further read, “(The report) claimed I had delivered a $100,000 cash bribe to curry the favour of the former US Congressman. This is another lie as multiple evidence abounds online clearly showing I was the victim who reported the US congressman to the EFCC and the FBI for defrauding my company.
“I have now instructed my lawyers to sue all digital media organisations who participated in the dissemination of this falsehood.”
The Roots TV boss said he was sure of victory in next year’s Presidential election.
Kachikwu, who is a younger brother to a former Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, surprisingly defeated a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, to win the ADC’s Presidential ticket.
Kwankwaso’s party gains one, Labour Party another as senators defect from APC, PDP
Two Senators on Wednesday announced their defection from their former political parties to another party ahead of the 2023 general election.
The Senators are: Francis Ezenwa Onyewusi representing Imo East Senatorial district and Haliru Dauda Jika representing Bauchi Central Senatorial district.
Their defection was made known by the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan during a plenary on Wednesday.
While Senator Francis Onyewusi who is a first-timer to the Senate was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and defected to Labour Party (LP), his counterpart in Bauchi was a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) before he defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
The defected Senators cited injustice and inequity in their former political parties that made them fail the primary elections.
On Tuesday, three All Progressives Congress (APC) senators defected to other political parties.
Ahmad Babba Kaita, senator representing Katsina north; Lawal Yahaya Gumau, senator representing Bauchi north, and Francis Alimikhena, senator representing Edo north, all defected to other parties.
Kaita, who represents President Muhammadu Buhari’s senatorial district, defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alongside Alimikhena.Advertisement
Gumau defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), a party led by Rabiu Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano state.
The defectors have cited “marginalisation” and unfair treatment by their former parties as the reason for joining new parties.
Most of them were seeking reelection, but lost their tickets in their former parties.
The number of APC senators now stands at 66.
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