The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has territorial jurisdiction to sit in Abuja, following perceived security challenges in the state.
The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja had dismissed a preliminary objection raised by Governor Nyesom Wike on the territorial jurisdiction of the tribunal and failure of the President of the Court of Appeal to consult the Rivers State Chief Judge and President of the Customary Court of Appeal before constituting the tribunals.
Dissatisfied, Governor Wike approached the Appellate court.
In a lead judgment read by Justice Sanusi (JSC), the Supreme Court held that the President of the Court of Appeal had the powers to transfer the sitting of the tribunal to Abuja to safeguard the lives of the judges and their staff.
The Supreme Court also ruled that in view of the fact that Rivers State had no Chief Judge or Customary Court of Appeal, there was no possibility for the President to have consulted them before the constitution of the tribunals.
The court unanimously held that based on the doctrine of necessity, the President, Court of Appeal acted in the right direction.
The Supreme Court further noted that the case of Ibori versus Ogboru cited by lawyers to Governor Wike was different from the present situation as the tribunal moved out of Delta State on its own accord and not on the strength of security.
As expected, more reactions have continued to greet the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal judgment, which nullified the victory of Governor Nysom Wike, as Ondo State Governor, and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum, Dr Olusegun Mimiko condemned the judgment, describing it as embracement to the nation democratic process.
The tribunal sitting in Abuja on Saturday sacked the Rivers State Governor and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct fresh election in the state in the next three months.
Mimiko, while speaking with journalists in Akure, the state capital, faulted the three-man tribunal on the grounds that its judgment was too hasty as it came less than 48 hours that both parties submitted their written addresses.
He said, “Our mindset is that tribunal judgment can go either way, but the Rivers own is particularly embarrassing. We all know the circumstances surrounding the Rivers State tribunal. You recall now that for unjustifiable course, that tribunal was not allowed to sit in Port Harcourt, it was taken to Abuja; somewhere along the line the chairman of the Tribunal got changed.
“The adoption of the written addresses was done on 1pm on Thursday. In the course of that trial, the litigants; both plaintiffs and defendants called more than 100 witnesses, documents that were presented as exhibits were more than 1,000. We are talking of more than 100 witnesses and 1,000 documents were admitted, we are talking of nine written addresses. None of the addresses were less than 40 pages.
“The adoption was on Thursday, around 1pm and Friday around 2pm, barely under 24 hours, notice had been issued that judgement was ready, that judgment was given on Saturday. This sequence and turn of event assault the sensibilities of lawyers that really believe in justice.”

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