Tribunal Reserves Judgement On Lulu-Briggs Petition In Rivers Guber Poll
The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, reserved its judgment on the petition the Accord Party, AP, and its candidate, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, filed to challenge the outcome of the gubernatorial contest that was held in the state on March 18.
The Justice Cletus Emifonye-led three-member panel adjourned to deliver its verdict on the petition that is seeking to nullify the declaration of Governor Siminalayi Fubara of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the winner of the election after all the parties adopted their final briefs of argument.
Aside from Governor Fubara and his party, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), was also joined as a Respondent in the matter.
INEC had declared that Governor Fubara polled a total of 302,614 votes to win the gubernatorial poll.
However, dissatisfied with the outcome, the petitioners approached the tribunal, insisting that the PDP candidate, Fubara, was not validly elected with a majority of lawful votes cast in the election.
They further contended that the election was marred by irregularities, adding that it was not conducted in substantial compliance with provisions of both the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act 2022.
While adopting their final written addresses, counsel to the petitioners, A. J. Owonikoko, SAN, maintained that INEC unlawfully returned Fubara as the winner of the election, in breach of section 130 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He contended that for the return of any candidate in a governorship election to be lawful, the INEC, must make valid entries in its Form EC 40(G)2 and also sign the same.
According to Owonikoko, SAN, the said form EC40(G)2, which stipulates the total number of units where votes were cast and not cast, was a necessary legal document that INEC must produce before the tribunal.
He argued that once the document was produced, the burden of proof requested by the Respondents would become unnecessary.
Besides, the senior lawyer told the tribunal that INEC deliberately concealed Form EC40(G)2 so as to hide the fact that votes were illegally credited to Fubara.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to nullify INEC’s declaration of Fubara as the winner of the election.
More so, the petitioners urged the court to order the electoral body to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to Fubara and order a fresh governorship election in Rivers State.
While adopting his own final address, counsel to Fubara, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for want of merit.
He argued that the petitioners failed to by way of credible evidence, establish their allegations.
The Respondents maintained that the petitioners failed to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on them by the law.
They equally accused the petitioners of failing to link documentary evidence they adduced before the tribunal with specific complaints of non-compliance.
Likewise, INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Steve Adehi, SAN, asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
He argued that the petitioners did not prove that the Rivers state governorship election was not conducted in strict compliance with provisions of the relevant laws.
After it had heard from all the sides, the tribunal, said it would communicate the judgement date to the parties.