Legal Nigeria

Appeal Court sacks all Rivers’ Senators

The Court of Appeal in Abuja, yesterday voided the elections that produced two Senators From Rivers State – Osinakachukwu Idoezu (Rivers South-West Senatorial District) and John Olaka-Nwogo (Rivers South-East).
The court, in a judgment, held among others, that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed, in its conduct of the elections, to comply substantially with the provisions of the Electoral Act and other guidelines for the March 28, 2015 National Assembly Election.
The sack of Idoezu and Olaka-Nwoga yesterday brought to three the number of Senators sacked in Rivers State by the Appeal Court.
The Court had in a judgment on Thursday evening, nullified the election of George Thompson Sekibo, representing Rivers East Senatorial District.
The appellate court, in a judgment on an appeal by Andrew Ibonule Uchendu and his party, the APC, upheld the appeal and upturned the decision of the Rivers State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal that sat in Abuja earlier this year.
Also on Thursday, the court annulled the elections of Kingsley Ogundu Chindah and Blessing Nsiegbe (PDP) representing Obio/Akpo Federal Constituency and Port-Harcourt 2 Federal Constituency of Rivers State.
The appeals, in respect of which the two judgments were given, marked CA/A/EPT/624/2015 and CA/A/EPT/625, filed by Anthony Chinedu Okocha and Collins Owhondah of the APC.
Yesterday’s appellate court’s judgment was on the appeals by Magnus Abbe and Otelemagba Dan-Amachree (of the All Progressive Congress.
Justice Ali Gumel, in the lead judgment, held that the conduct of the election that produced the sacked  senators failed to meet the requirement under the Electoral Act.
The judge was specific that by the court’s finding, lawful accreditation did not take place in majority of the voting centres.
Justice Gumel held that from the available evidence, including the ones led by INEC and the appellants, the election of March 28, 2015 in Rivers State, did not conform with set guidelines such as the use of voter card reader machines, voter register and other election guidelines.
He noted that from available evidence, all the polling units in the two senatorial districts abandoned the use of card reader machines, thereby giving way to manipulations.
The judge added that there was no proper accreditation of voters on election day as required by law, adding that election without accreditation, as in the instant case cannot stand in the face of the law.
He held that an act done in contravention of the law is nothing but a nullity and illegality.
He upheld the appeals and ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections in the affected senatorial districts within 60 days.
With the cancellation of the three senatorial elections in Rivers, on ground of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the fate of the state governor, Nyesom Wike, who benefited from accumulated of all elections held in the state during the governorship election, appear unclear.
The election tribunal had, earlier this year voided Wike’s election and ordered a rerun, a decision Wike challenged.
The case is yet to be decided by the Court of Appeal.
The governor could still appeal to the Supreme Court should he lose at the Court of Appeal
The Nation