The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday dismissed all the four petitions seeking to nullify the election of Governor Similayi Fubara of Rivers state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared PDP’s Fubara as winner of the gubernatorial election, having polled a total of 302,614 votes ahead of other contestants.
But dissatisfied with the outcome of the governorship election, the various political parties and their candidates approached the election petitions tribunal, seeking to nullify the election held on March 18, 2023.
The dismissed petitions were separately filed by the Accord Party and its candidate, Dumo Lulu-Briggs; Tonye Cole of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Beatrice Itubo of the Labour Party; and Innocent Ekwu of the Allied Peoples Movement.
In all the four judgements on Monday, the tribunal affirmed the election of Fubara as the validly elected Governor of Rivers state.
The Justice Cletus Emifonye-led three-member separately dismissed all the four petitions for lacking in merit, on jurisdictional grounds and for being incompetent.
Ruling on the LP’s petition, the tribunal dismissed the petition for lacking in merit and for failure of the petitioners to prove their allegations.
Similarly, the tribunal dismissed the petition of Lulu-Briggs of the AP that argued that Fubara was not validly elected with a majority of lawful votes cast in the election, and that the election was marred by irregularities.
The tribunal held that Lulu-Briggs’ claim that the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with provisions of both the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act 2022, was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Lulu-Briggs had urged the court to order INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to Fubara and order a fresh governorship election in Rivers State.
Similarly, the tribunal dismissed the petition filed by Innocent Ekwu of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) for lacking in merit.
The Tribunal also awarded a cost of 500,000 naira against the petitioner and in favour of the Respondents.
It was the finding of the Tribunal that Ekwu lacked the locus standi to file the petition because he didn’t contest the Rivers state governorship election.
It was observed by the tribunal that Whyte Churchil was the candidate that contested the March 18 election under the platform of APM.
More so, the Tribunal threw out the two issues raised by the petitioner bordering on non-qualification and non compliance with the electoral laws for being incompetent and for lacking in merit.
On his part, Tonye Cole of the APC is specifically asking the tribunal to sack Fubara from office because he (Fubara), as at the time of the election, was not qualified to run.
Cole told the tribunal that Fubara didn’t resign from his post as Accountant-General and Permanent Secretary in Rivers State.
However, in it’s judgment, the tribunal held that nomination of a candidate is an internal affairs of a political party.
Consequently, the tribunal held that Cole lacked the legal right to challenge the nomination of Fubara at the tribunal.
The tribunal opined that the allegation of Cole was a pre-election matter that ought to have been challenged at the Federal High Court and not at the Tribunal.
More so, the allegation of Cole that the election was conducted in substantial non compliance with provisions of the Constitution, Electoral Act and INEC guidelines was dismissed for lack of substantial evidence.
The Tribunal noted that the APC had withdrawn it’s petition against Fubara, leaving only Cole to challenge to the outcome of the election.