The Peoples Democratic Party yesterday suffered a setback in its political dominance of Rivers State following the nullification of the elections of Senators Osinakachukwu Idoezu (Rivers South-West Senatorial District) and John Olaka-Nwogo (Rivers South-East) by the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja.
The ruling came on the heels of Thursday’s judgment by the Court of Appeal, which also nullified the election of Senator George Thompson Sekibo, representing Rivers East Senatorial District.
The court’s judgment was on the appeals by Magnus Abbe, Otelemagba Dan-Amachree and Andrew Ibonule Uchendu all of the All Progressive Congress.
The Rivers State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal that sat in Abuja earlier this year had upheld the elections of the trio but their sacking by the Court of Appeal means Rivers is left without any representative in the Senate.
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 respectively.
The judgment was on the appeals filed by Anthony Chinedu Okocha and Collins Owhondah of the APC.
The ruling has also been interpreted in some quarters as a pointer to what will befall Governor Nyesom Wike, who appealed the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal ruling that nullified his election.
Although Wike can still take his case as far as the Supreme Court if he doesn’t get a favourable ruling at the Court of Appeal, the grounds upon which the APC and its candidates got the PDP senators’ and House of Representatives members’ elections nullified, are largely similar to the grounds upon which the tribunal acted upon to sack the governor from office.
The court, in a judgment yesterday, 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.
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, adding 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 substantially comply with set guidelines such as the use of voter card readers, voter register and other election guidelines.
He further noted that from available evidence, all the polling units in the two senatorial districts did not use card readers, thereby giving way to manipulations.
Justice Gumel held that there was no proper accreditation of voters on Election Day as required by law, stressing 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 and therefore upheld the appeals by the APC and its candidates.
The judge ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections in the affected senatorial districts within 60 days from the date of judgment.