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PDP’s fear over 23 House of Assembly seats

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AFTER the sack of almost all National Assembly members by the Court of Appeal, the local chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, through its legal adviser, Benjamin Israel, on Sunday demanded the disqualification of the three appellate court justices – Ali Abubakar Gumel, Ridwan Maiwada Abdulahi and Nonyerem Okorokwo – from determining the cases of members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The National and State Assembly Appeals Panel for Rivers State, sitting in Abuja, last Friday and Saturday, upheld the ruling of the National and State Election Petitions’ Tribunal, which had voided the Certificates of Return given to three senators and all but one  member of the House of Representatives elected on PDP platform.

Affected are: senators George Sekibo (Rivers East); Osinakachukwu Idoezu (Rivers Southwest); John Olaka-Nwogo (Rivers Southeast); and representatives Kingsley Ogundu Chindah (Obio/Akpo); Blessing Nsiegbe (Port Harcourt II); Boma Goodhead (Asari Toru/Akuku Toru ); Ken Chikere (Port Harcourt I);  Randolf Brown (Bonny/Degema); Dum Deekor (ai/Eleme/Oyigbo) and Betty Apiafi (Ahoada East/Abua).

Others are: Awaji Inombek Abiante (Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro);  Dimnamene Deekor (Khana/Gokhana); Boniface Emerangwa (Ikwerre/Emohua); Bright Gogo Tamuno (Okrika/Ogu/Bolo) and Jerome Eke (Etche/Omuma).

Uche Nnam Obi  (Ahoada West/Egbeama/Ndoni ) is the only surviving representative  elected on the PDP platform from Rivers State.

The judges upheld the verdict of the lower tribunal that Obi’s APC opponent, Lucky Odili, was not qualified to contest the election.

The appellate court upheld the tribunal’s ruling that a fresh election must be conducted in the three senatorial districts and all the affected federal constituencies.

In its reaction to the weekend’s judgment, the local chapter of the PDP petitioned the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, demanding the disqualification of the judges hearing the appeals of its 23 lawmakers in the House of Assembly, whose elections had earlier been invalidated at the tribunal.

Quoting 23 appeal numbers in an advertorial published on Sunday, the PDP legal adviser said: “The Peoples Democratic Party is respectively appellants and respondents in the above-listed appeals which are yet to be determined by the Court of Appeal. We demand respectfully, for an urgent change in the panel of justices who should hear and determine our appeals now pending in the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division.”

Israel, who gave the reasons for the PDP’s demand, made sweeping but unproven allegations against the Court of Appeal justices.

He said: “We have great doubts in the credulity and integrity of the panel to dispense justice as it is presently constituted. The panel consists of Hon. Ali Abubakar Babandi Gumel (Presiding), Hon Justice Ridwan Maiwada Abdulahi and Hon. Justice Nonyerem Okorokwo.

“Two weeks ago, Hon. Justice Ali Abubakar Babandi Gumel was seen with the former Governor of Rivers State, now Minister of Transport and a strong member of the All Progressives Congress, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, at the latter’s residence in Asokoro, Abuja. The former’s visit to Amaechi a forth night ago was however treated with levity by us.

“Only recently again, on 10/12/2015 at 10.00am, Hon. Justice Ali Abubakar Babandi Gumel, this time with his members – Hon Justice Ridwan Maiwada Abdulahi and Hon. Justice Nonyerem Okorokwo – at same Rt. Hon. Chibuike, Rotimi Amaechi’s Residence at Asokoro. The purpose of the visit of course should rather be imagined than told – to procure victory for the All Progressives Congress at the Court of Appeal, which in fact they did. This accounted for the commencement of the sitting of the court later than 4pm on 10/12/2015

“We have no confidence in the ability of the present panel to dispense justice. Our lawyers prepared and argued our cases on the assumption that the decisions of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on any point or issue of law are binding on all courts in Nigeria. We are aware of occasions when the Supreme Court has admonished all courts in Nigeria to obey and follow the decisions of the Supreme on all points and issues which the final court has already pronounced on.”

The party backed up its claims by citing some precedents.

But, observers said the PDP had been living with the fear of the harmless. They said the elections of March 28 and April 11 that produced the federal and state lawmakers failed integrity test, adding that local and international observers described the 2015 election in Rivers State as a sham.

“Were the judges in Rivers State when the names of parties that didn’t participate in the election found their way on the result sheets?, an analyst said.

At least two parties that didn’t take part in the election have marks allocated to their imaginary candidates”, an analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Nation yesterday.

The analyst urged the PDP to stop crying over spilled milk and return to the political turf to face fresh elections.

Immediately after the elections, APC candidates approached the tribunals for the cancellation of results, claiming that the elections of March 28 and April 11 were marred by violence both in its build-up and after the process.

The lower tribunals voided the Certificates of Return issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the PDP candidates for the National Assembly, governorship and State Assembly polls, ordering fresh elections. But, the PDP candidates appealed against the tribunal rulings.

Unlike the appeals of the feeral and state lawmakers that terminated at the Appeal Court, Governor Nyesom Wike, whose appeal was thrown out by the appellate court yesterday, said he will take his case to the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal upheld the lower tribunal’s ruling in favour of APC governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside.

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