The Supreme Court will on Tuesday deliver a judgment on whether or not the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which nullified the election of Governor Nyesom Wike on Saturday had the jurisdiction to hear the case against the governor.
The Justice Mohammed Ambrosa-led tribunal had on Saturday nullified Wike’s election as it upheld allegations by the All Progressives Congress and its governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside, that the election which held on April 11, 2015 was conducted in substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
But Saturday’s judgment would amount to nullity if the Supreme Court holds on Tuesday that the proceedings of the tribunal had been conducted without requisite jurisdiction.
Wike and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, had in an appeal filed before the Supreme Court, challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal on the grounds of its relocation from Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, where the election took place, to Abuja.
The appellants argued that the tribunal lacked territorial jurisdiction to hear the petition by the APC and Peterside in Abuja.
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the tribunal which affirmed that its relocation to Abuja because of security concerns was in order, Wike had appealed to the Court of Appeal.
A panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice John Fabiyi, had on October 16, heard the appeal by Wike and adjourned till Tuesday for judgment.
President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who exercises administrative powers on election petition tribunals in the country, had directed the relocation of the sittings of the tribunals in Rivers, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba states to to Abuja due to security concerns in the states.
But Wike had contended that the tribunal lacked the territorial jurisdiction to hear the petition in Abuja.
Wike challenged the powers of the President of the Court of Appeal to order the tribunal’s relocation to Abuja.
The governor argued that the tribunal’s relocation to Abuja was in breach of Section 285 (2) of the Nigerian Constitution and the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010.
He urged the tribunal to relocate to Port Harcourt in compliance with provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act.
The tribunal then led by Justice Mu’azu Pindiga, who later handed over to Justice Ambrosa, had in a ruling on July 27, 2015 dismissed Wike’s motion.
Justice Pindiga held that contrary to Wike’s argument, the tribunal had not violated any provision of the law since the relocation to Abuja was for security reasons.
The judge faulted Wike’s argument that proximity and accessibility were major determining factors in deciding the venue of a tribunal.
Justice Pindiga held that proximity and accessibility could not be determined in the absence of security for the tribunal members and litigants.
He said the President of the Appeal Court acted within the ambit of the law, which emphasises the need for a proper atmosphere for the tribunal to hold its proceedings.
He held that the tribunal had not violated any provision of the law since the relocation to Abuja was for security reasons.