A five-member panel of the Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed the election of Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State.
The panel in the lead judgment delivered by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa affirmed Fubara’s election shortly after it dismissed the appeal by Mr Tonye Cole of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
According to Saulawa, the appellant did not prove his allegations of over-voting, non-compliance as well as non-qualification of Fubara to contest the election.
“This appeal is grossly lacking in merit and liable to be dismissed and it is accordingly dismissed”, Justice Saulawa held.
The apex court subsequently affirmed the concurrent judgments of the two lower courts which earlier dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
Cole in his appeal had asked the apex court to reverse both the Court of Appeal and tribunal judgments which upheld the declaration of Fubara of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Rivers State.
He insisted that the lower court erred in law when it agreed with the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that he did not prove his allegations against the governorship poll. The APC’s hopeful therefore urged the apex court to allow his appeal and grant the reliefs sought which included the setting aside of the concurrent judgments of the two lower courts and declared him winner of the March 18 governorship election in Rivers State.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared PDP’s Fubara as governor having won majority of the lawful votes cast at the governorship poll.
Dissatisfied, APC and Cole citing alleged irregularities, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, corrupt practices amongst others, had asked the tribunal to void Fubara’s election as governor.
Besides they claimed that Fubara was not qualified to contest the election over alleged violation of the law because he had allegedly continued to sign documents as the Rivers State’s Accountant-General despite been nominated governorship candidate of the PDP.
But, the tribunal in a unanimous judgment held that the allegations were not proved to warrant the grant of the reliefs sought and subsequently dismissed it.
Dissatisfied, Cole approached the appellate court to reverse the judgment of the tribunal, but was told he did not advance any cogent reason to warrant the Court of Appeal to deviate from the findings and conclusion of the tribunal.
While candidate of the Labour Party (LP) withdrew her appeal shortly after it was filed, the apex court had last few days ago, dismissed the appeal by the Allied Peoples Movement (APM). The appeal was dismissed following its withdrawal by the APM’s counsel Confidence Kere.
When the case of the APM was called its counsel, Kere attempted to adopt and argue its client’s case, however Kere was cut short by the panel led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who pointed out that the APM lacked the legal standing to institute the appeal on the grounds that it did not take part in the actual election. Kere subsequently applied orally to withdraw the appeal and since the respondents did not object to the withdrawal, the apex court subsequently dismissed it.
INEC had declared Fubara winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election having scored 302,614 votes to defeat his closest rival, Tonye Cole of the APC who scored 95,274 votes.
The labour party came third with a score of 22,224 votes.