The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal held its inaugural sitting in Abuja yesterday with allegation that the state governor-elect, Chief Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party has been evading service of court summon and other processes in the petition challenging his elections.
The tribunal was told that all attempts by the bailiff of the court to effect service on Wike have been futile due to alleged non-cooperative attitude of the people in the house of the governor-elect both in Port-Harcourt and Abuja.
The petitioner, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside of the All Progressives Congress through his counsel Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN had approached the tribunal challenging the April 11 election of the PDP candidate on grounds of alleged irregularities and massive rigging.
At the inaugural sitting yesterday, Akeredolu moved a motion ex-parte praying the tribunal to grant an order for substituted service on the governor-elect.
He claimed that the court bailiff had on several occasions visited the house of Wike to effect service on him but was on all the occasions turned back at the gate by agents of Wike upon discovery that he is a court bailiff.
In an affidavit deposed to by the bailiff and tendered by the petitioner, the tribunal was told that neither the governor-elect nor his agent was ready to receive any court process from anybody.
The SAN however said that in fairness, he could not establish whether it was Wike that instructed his agents not to accept service, but however urged the tribunal to allow him paste the process on the wall of Wike’s house in the interest of justice and to avoid unnecessary delay of proceedings.
In a short ruling, Justice Muazu Abdulkadir Pindiga granted the prayer of the petitioner and ordered that substituted service be effected on the defendant either by pasting the court process on his gate or at the office of the PDP secretariat in Rivers state or in Abuja.
The panel said it would communicate the parties in the petition as to the next adjourned date. Other defendants in the petition are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the PDP.
Earlier in his inaugural speech, the tribunal chairman had appealed to parties and media to co-operate with the tribunal in the discharge of its duties without any hindrance.
Justice Pindiga assured that the tribunal would be just and fair to all parties in all the five governorship petitions billed to be handled completely within 180 days adding that the constitutional provisions, the Electoral Act and the Practice Directions would guide the tribunal in its duties.
Specifically, he assured that the 3-member tribunal will endeavour to begin sitting by 9am daily and will work between Monday to Saturday in order to ensure that all the petitioners are disposed of within the time allowed by law.
In his response, Akeredolu who spoke on behalf of the bar, thanked the tribunal for the assurances and pleaded that the members should work assiduously so that none of the five petitions will lapse as such will negate the essence of coming to the tribunal to seek justice.

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