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Mr Odigie-Oyegun: The Supreme Court was right on Rivers State


He was shocked that the Supreme Court  chose to uphold the Rule of Law in the election  petition  filed by the Rivers APC  rather than dance to the tunes of propaganda  and falsehood  circulated by the party. 

It is no longer  news that the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr John Odigie-Oyegun publicly lamented  the  loss of Rivers State  by his party at the Supreme Court . The APC National Chairman went ahead to impugn the Integrity  of the Apex Court,  questioning the  rationale for the landmark  decision  that reinstated  the confidence  Nigerians have in the Judiciary. 

Like every other Nigerian, I cannot pretend  not to know why Mr John  Odigie-Oyegun is shedding  tears profusely.  The APC  Chieftain  explained  it himself. It’s all about the money.  The resources of Rivers State. 

Hear Odigie-Oyegun : “We have lost very important resource-rich states to the PDP. No matter how crude oil prices have fallen, it is still the most important revenue earner for the country.”

He was shocked that the Supreme Court  chose to uphold the Rule of Law in the election  petition  filed by the Rivers APC  rather than dance to the tunes of propaganda  and falsehood  circulated by the party. For Rivers State, the truth prevailed and the will of the good people  of  the  state affirmed by the  judicial process.

Though Mr Odigie-Oyegun  is older than myself,  I have a duty to place the records before him. I believe that his guests misled him with lies, hence his unfounded  conclusion  on the Rivers State Governorship Election.

There were two key issues formulated  by the Rivers APC in their petition  against  the election of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. First, the Rivers State APC  complained of over-voting, claiming  that  the  number of votes returned  by INEC  were in excess of the number  of  those accredited  via card readers. Secondly,  the Rivers APC alleged  that  the  governorship  election  was marred by violence  across the 4442 polling units of the state.

Mr APC National  Chairman, with due respect, your party members failed to  prove these two allegations.  They merely relied on documentary  hearsay and human  hearsay.  

The issue  of  accreditation  for elections in Nigeria  is clearly spelt out in the Electoral Act  2010 as amended. Section 49 (1 & 2) are unambiguous.  I recommend  it to Mr John Odigie-Oyegun.  They read: “A person intending  to vote with his voter’s card, shall present  himself to a Presiding Officer at the polling unit in the  constituency in which his name  is  registered with his voter’s card.

“The presiding officer shall on being  satisfied that the  name of the  person  is on the register of voters,  issue him a ballot paper and indicate on the  register that the person  has voted”.

Therefore,  the critical  factor in an accreditation  process is the voter register.  The INEC  guideline which introduced  the card reader was only meant to assist the accreditation  process. In Rivers State,  both card reader and manual accreditation  took place like other states. 

At the tribunal the Rivers State PDP  tendered the incident  forms used for the manual accreditation  and all the voters registers used for the 4442 polling  units in the state.  The Rivers APC  restricted  themselves  to the card reader accreditation process.  In the Lagos State  Governorship  Election Dispute between  Jimi Agbaje  (PDP) and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode  (APC), the Appeal Court held  that the card reader  cannot have a life of its  own. Indeed, at the  Supreme Court on January 27, it was duly established  during  the adoption  of  briefs that the INEC  guideline cannot  be  superior  to  the  Electoral Act. 

At the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, resolving the card reader issue in APC’s favour, Justice Festus Ogbunya held: “The paragraph (13b) displays a vitriolic attack on the irregularities germinating from the improper or non-use of the smart card readers in the polling units.

“As it is, it has no life of its own as a ground. It endeavours to introduce the defects in the use of smart card readers. The evolution of the concept of smart card reader is a familiar one. It came to being during the last general election. On this score, it is a nascent procedure injected into our infant and fledgling electoral system to ensure credible and transparent election.

“The extant Electoral Act (2010) which predates the concept (of card reader) is not its parent or progenitor. Since it is not the progeny of the Electoral Act, fronting it as a ground to challenge any election does not have its (the Electoral Act’s) blessing, nay Section 138 (1) of it.

“Put simply, a petitioner cannot project the non-presence or improper use of smart card reader as a ground for questioning an election. It does not qualify as one”.

I know that Mr John Odigie-Oyegun would understand  the  above.

On the issue of several wild allegations of  violence  by the defeated Rivers State APC,  they made no serious  attempt  to prove this at the courts. They swam in falsehood,  propaganda and self deceit. Mr APC National Chairman,  your party members  made no attempt to  call relevant  witnesses to  prove their allegations. 

Out of the  4442 polling units  in the state,  your party members  called only three voters. Of these three voters only one claimed that violence  disrupted voting in his unit. Mr APC National Chairman would you have  in all honesty  nullified an election just on the basis of one polling  unit out of 4442 polling  units.  The Supreme Court  refused to be deceived by lies and propaganda. 

Section 53 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended stipulates  how to prove over voting. It is strictly  on a polling unit by polling unit basis.

It reads: “Where the votes cast at an election in any polling  unit exceed the number of registered voters in that polling unit, the result of the election  in that polling unit shall be declared void by the Commission and another election may be conducted at a date to be fixed by the  Commission where the  result at that polling unit may affect the overall result in the constituency “.

Deciding  the election  petition  filed by Senator  Ucha against the election of  former Governor Elechi of Ebonyi State in 2012, the Supreme Court declared:

“The results declared by INEC are prima facie correct and the onus is on the petitioner to prove the contrary. Where a petitioner complains of non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), he has a duty to prove it polling unit by polling unit, ward by ward and the standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities and not on minimal proof. He must show figures that the adverse party was credited with as a result of the non-compliance, Forms EC8A, election materials not stamped/signed by Presiding Officers. He must establish that non-compliance was substantial, that it affected the election result. “.

Barrister Kenneth Ikonne noted : “The principles relating to the proof of Over-voting, especially in relation to the indispensability of the voters register, weren’t set today; that aspect of our jurisprudence has long been settled. Petitioners hinging their allegation of over-voting on disparities in the card reader accreditation data, and withholding the voters registers, were just being clever by half. 

They knew the registers would not bear out such allegations, and that was why they withheld them. A technology as erratic as the card reader cannot, for now, be the measure by which to test whether an election was conducted substantially in accordance with the law. 

Were it to be, not even one single election conducted with the card reader will pass the test of judicial scrutiny, including the presidential election where 2 million votes were cast in Kano, but where the card reader successfully read less than 400,000 voters cards. Who knows whether the card reader even successfully read the Chief Justice of Nigeria, since it was irreverent enough not to successfully read even former President Jonathan and his wife?”

I understand  that  the  APC  and her members are disappointed  that  their falsehood and propaganda have  failed. But my candid advice to Mr APC National Chairman is for him to respect the judgment  of the Supreme Court despite  his pecuniary  interest in  Rivers State. 

For the Rivers APC members,  Governor Wike  is a governor  for all. He has extended  his hand of friendship to them for the communal development  of  Rivers State.  Under the  leadership  of  Governor  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, there will be no orphans in the  state.  Nobody  will be  left out in the cold. There is no need for anyone to fear.

Governor  Wike  will continue  to  lead a state where the will of the people will continue to prevail. Therefore,  those in Abuja  begging  for security  and electoral infrastructure  to rig the forthcoming  legislative  rerun elections should  think again.  Rivers State  belongs to the people  and nobody  will  send political  armed robbers to come to the  state to rob the people  of  their mandate.  Like Governor Wike said when he addressed civil servants, anyone who plans to rig elections  in the State will be treated as an armed robber.  Nigerians  can now understand  the  governor’s message. 

My last word to Mr John Odigie-Oyegun:  The Supreme Court  delivered judgments  on several states and it applied same principles. Why must Mr APC  National Chairman cry when the Rivers people are celebrating  the judgment? This nefarious  plot to perpetually  financially rape Rivers  State  was why the Rivers people  completely  rejected the APC. 

The Supreme Court has affirmed the  will of the Rivers people  in line with  the  provisions of the law. Mr John Odigie-Oyegun should  appreciate this fact.

By Simeon Nwakaudu

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