The Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja began full hearing of the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate in the April 11, 2015 election in Rivers State, Dakuku Peterside, against the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ezenwo Nyesom Wike.
Peterside is challenging the election of the PDP’s Nyesom Wike of the PDP at the tribunal.
Also, yesterday, the tribunal dismissed the petition by the PDP demanding a change in the chairmanship of the tribunal.
The APC and Peterside called their first set of witnesses to testify before the tribunal in Abuja, yesterday, after about four months of battling with series of interlocutory applications filed by the respondents seeking the dismissal of their petition at the preliminary stage.
The tribunal has a statutory limit of 180 days within which it must hear and determine the petition.
A new chairman, Justice Mohammed Ambrosa, took charge of proceedings yesterday.
Ambrosa was, by a letter dated September 1, 2015, from the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, asked to replace the former chairman, Justce Mu’azu Pindiga.
Ambrosa, who presided over the proceedings, earlier dismissed the protest by Wike’s lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) and the counsel to the PDP, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), against the change of the chairman of the tribunal.
Counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), did not protest against the change of the chairman of the tribunal. INEC, Wike and the PDP were the only respondents to the petition.
Ukala, who had told the tribunal that he was appearing against his wish, gave the tribunal the options of either adjourning the case to enable his team to consult on what steps to take on the development or start the entire proceedings afresh.
“We are worried, because yesterday a number of newspapers published a story that there were subterranean moves by some powerful forces to implement changes in the election tribunal and we got here this morning to find out that the story was not a mere hallucination but a reality that is starring at us in the face,”Hearing in the petition continues today.