A furious Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State yesterday launched tirades on the judiciary moments after the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sacked Wike as Rivers State governor.
The tribunal had said the election that brought the governor to power was characterised by malpractices and not held in substantial compliance with the electoral laws.
PDP immediately declared that the judgment cannot stand while Wike branded it a gang-up against the people of Rivers State.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP , Chief Olisa Metuh, slammed the verdict as “completely bizarre and unacceptable,” and said it was part of the script by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to manipulate the will of the people.
His party, he claimed, had been hinted several months ago about “this spurious judgment,” and that it accordingly alerted the nation and the international community to the plot by the APC government to use the judiciary and various security agencies to reverse the victory of the PDP in Rivers, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Taraba and Abia states.
“We invite Nigerians and the international community to recall various reprehensible steps taken by the APC government that culminated in this ruling as well as the ridiculous Wednesday’s verdict of the Akwa-Ibom state governorship election tribunal, also sitting in Abuja”, the PDP said.
The party listed what it described as the curious and controversial relocation of the election tribunals from their states to Abuja without any justification; the constant juggling of judicial officers and members of governorship election tribunals in PDP controlled states, especially, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom.
It also alleged constant harassment of judicial and electoral officers involved in the governorship election cases in these state, using agencies of government, particularly, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) under the direct command of a known APC member, Alhaji Lawal Daura.
The PDP similarly alleged constant threats, intimidation and coercing of witnesses against the party in the tribunals.
He added: “the recent mass transfer of security operatives, especially the DSS and police personnel that actually participated in the conduct of the elections in Rivers and Akwa-Ibom, ostensibly to frustrate the course of genuine evidences in the process. “The bias in the judgment against the PDP in Rivers as well as Akwa-Ibom is evidenced in the contradictions inherent in the trial process of the two cases and the verdicts therein, whereby the tribunals clearly disregarded standing legal norm that a petitioner must establish prove of claims.
“Also curious is the fact that after both the petitioner and respondent agreed before the tribunal that both card reader and manual accreditations were used for the election, the tribunal still went ahead to base its decision on issues of card reader.
“While it is convenient for them to use legal technicalities to deny PDP victory in Imo, Lagos, Ogun and Yobe states, the same rules are misapplied to wickedly favour APC petitioners in Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states.
“It is therefore evinced that these contradictions are direct fall-out of compromises as well as boasts by the APC of being in direct and remote control of the tribunals.
“If not, how can one explain the fact that while governorship elections are being upturned in PDP states, in APC states, where similar claims and facts are in contention, elections are being upheld.
“Further proof of bias by the Rivers tribunal is the fact that less than 24 hours after various counsels submitted nine written addresses and documents, the tribunal rushed its notice of judgment, an action ostensibly aimed at ambushing the pending Supreme Court action on the issue of jurisdiction regarding the relocation of the tribunal outside River state, which was due to be delivered on Tuesday.
“This is not withstanding the fact that the tribunal has up to seven days after receipt of addresses, to deliver its judgment, but chose instead, to rush to deliver this spurious verdict even on a Saturday, a development eliciting suspicion that the judgment may have since been predetermined and written even before the commencement of the case.
“The PDP calls on all Nigerians and the international community to note this growing manipulation of the judiciary by the APC government, a factor which portends great danger to our democracy and the stability of our country.
“Nigerians would want to recall that under the PDP-led government with former President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to the tenets of democracy as encapsulated in the safeguard of ‘one man one vote’ and the independence of the judiciary, the PDP conceded electoral defeat in Edo, Anambra, and Imo states without attempting to collect victory through executive manipulation of the judicial process.
“The PDP restates unequivocally that this judgments must not stand in view of the prevailing inherent contradictions, in addition to the huge threat they portend to our democracy and national stability.
“Finally, the PDP charges all lovers of democracy, particularly our members in Rivers and Akwa-Ibom state not to be daunted, as these judgments will not stand the test of the law and the will of the people.
“We therefore reassure that the PDP will do all within the ambit of the law to resist this criminal attempt by the APC to steal and thwart the will of the people”.
On his part, Wike told his supporters in Port Harcourt last night that the verdict was nothing short of a gang up against Rivers people.
Wike said: “I am still the governor of Rivers State. Our lawyers are going on appeal. We are all going on appeal. There is also the Supreme Court.
“They can say anything, but Rivers people’s interest must be protected. Nobody will intimidate me to abandon this state. If they like, let them summon the justices as they have been doing. But one day, God’s own pronouncement will come.”
Wike’s pronouncement drew an immediate response from the APC in the state, with the party’s Chris Finebone accusing him of blackmail.
He was shocked that the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State “has come out to condemn and cast aspersions on the character of the panel of jurists.
“The APC believes that such irrational utterances on the part of the PDP are as a result of the shock, frustration and disappointment that the panel of judges of the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal made themselves unreachable to be compromised by the PDP and Governor Nyesom Wike and demonstrated that despite the malfeasance of a few, the Nigerian judiciary is still made up men of impeccable character who cherish their good name, character and hallowed profession.
“The APC is only worried that Nyesom Wike as at yesterday had made uniforms for his followers in preparation to celebrate the ruling of the Supreme Court over PDP matter on the jurisdiction of the election petition tribunal.
“As a result of this, many questions come to mind one of which is: “Does Nyesom Wike already know the decision of the Supreme Court on his appeal on locational jurisdiction?”
“For us in the APC we will continue to believe and trust in the transparency and forthrightness of the members of the Nigerian judiciary as has been exemplified on occasions without number including over the ruling on the Rivers State matter today.
“We believe that the antics and machinations of a few persons such as Nyesom Wike are not enough to tarnish the impeccable records of our distinguished men and women of the bench in Nigeria.
“To us in the APC, the innuendo, allusion and expressions on the judiciary by Nyesom Wike and the PDP are mere red herring meant to blackmail members at the very apex of the judiciary having woefully failed to monetarily compromise them.
“This evil motive by Nyesom Wike and the PDP to blackmail and impugn the hard-earned integrity of the justices of the Supreme Court will surely fail.”