By George Onah
PORT HARCOURTâ€”THE agitation as to whether or not Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was appropriately elected as Governor of Rivers State was put to rest, Wednessday, when the Election Appeal Tribunal sitting in Port Harcourt, dismissed the appeal of the governorship candidate of Accord Party, AP, Chief Bekinbo Alalibo Soberekon.
Specifically, Soberekon, had gone to court to seek the removal of former Governor Celestine Omehia, whose name was later replaced with Amaechi, because of the alleged electoral flaws surrounding the 2007 governorship election.
Soberekon had in his sworn affidavit in 2007, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of deliberately removing his name, photograph and party logo from the votersâ€™ card, thereby depriving his teeming supporters the opportunity to vote him into office as governor of Rivers State.
But in a unanimous decision by the five justices of the court headed by Justice Abubakar Jega, the court held that the appeal was â€œincompetent and therefore must fail,â€ on grounds that â€œwhen the petition was struck out at the lower court, the counsel to the appellant should have challenged the striking out of the motion by the Election Petitions Tribunal at the appeal court.â€
In striking out the appeal and award of N30,000 against the appellant in the judgment read by Justice K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, the court ruled that the appeal was defective when â€œit chose to file a motion to set aside that ruling and so having not done that the appellant actually brought a motion before an incompetent panel.â€
Soberekon had been in court since 2007 in the matter which started from the Elections Petitions Tribunal to the Supreme Court, where it was later returned to the Appeal Court.
Counsel to INEC, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, extolled the brilliant judgment of the justices, noting that the ruling laid a â€œsolid foundation for this generation and generations unborn because people learn everyday.â€
Similarly, counsel to Soberekon, Mr. Golden Tamuno said the judgment could not be faulted and that his team and client had no objection to the ruling because it was the wise pronouncement of eminent jurists.
Consequent upon the judgment, supporters of both the victor and vanquished left the courtroom in different moods. While top PDP officials, commissioners and state Assembly members engaged in backslapping, the Accord Party members left the crowded court wearing long faces.
Amaechi praises Judiciary
Meantime following his victory at the Appeal Court, yesterday, Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi has praised the judiciary for correcting the mistakes in Nigerian democracy.
The governor who thanked the Judiciary for protecting the poor against the influential members of society, noted that â€œthe courts have shown that no matter how mighty the rich are, it would continue to defend the rights of the poor.â€
Elated Amaechi assured the people that the distractions were over and that his cabinet had no reason not to deliver on its promises and to continue to work hard to justify their mandate.
He advised those still opposing the government to join hands with his administration to improve the quality of life of Rivers people, adding: â€œOne thing we would not do as a people is to sell the rights of Rivers people; we cannot because some people are outside government and looking for the benefit of government to the detriment of the majority.â€
The governor advised his opponents to abandon their private interests and work for the benefit of the generality of the state.
He praised Rivers people and the PDP for â€œignoring all the rumours peddled against me before the judgment over the Appeal Court,â€ adding: â€œWe thank God for what He has continued to do for me and my family.â€
In his reaction, the Rivers State Chairman of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Godspower Ake, said: â€œThe issue of who is the Governor of Rivers State has been put to rest,â€ explaining that the party would continue to support Amaechi to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
On his part the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ken Chikere said the court has delivered its judgment, adding that it has spoken the minds of the majority of Rivers people.