The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, expunged some paragraphs of the petition that led to the annulment of the April 11 governorship election that brought Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to power.
In a judgment it delivered, a three-man panel of Justices of the Appeal Court headed by Justice Datti Yahaya, struck out portions of the petition alleging that security agents were used to rig the election in favour of Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The decision of the appellate court followed an interlocutory appeal that was lodged before it by the APC and its governorship candidate in Rivers State, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
Both APC and Peterside had gone before the court to challenge the ruling of the previous chairman of the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal panel, Justice Muazu Pindiga, which deleted paragraphs of the petition containing criminal allegations against unnamed security operatives.
Justice Pindiga, who was subsequently removed from presiding over the petition by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, based his decision on the fact that the petitioners failed to join the said security agents and other persons it said participated in the alleged electoral fraud as parties to the suit.
Among those that the APC alleged masterminded the rigging of election in Rivers State included wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience.
But, dissatisfied with the ruling of the lower tribunal, the petitioners took the matter before the appellate court.
While upholding the decision of the tribunal yesterday, the appeal court held that paragraphs of the petition containing allegations of electoral crime against named and unnamed security agents and alleged political thugs should be expunged from the record of the tribunal.
The court stressed that the petitioners ought to have joined the accused security agents and political thugs as parties to the petition.
Specifically, the court directed that evidences that were led against security agents and political thugs, whether named or unnamed, in the course of hearing of the petition against Wike, where the said security agents and alleged political thugs were not joined as parties, should be struck out.
The Court of Appeal further directed that all the criminal allegations contained in the petition against the said security agents and alleged political thugs be expunged as they had no opportunity to defend themselves at the tribunal.
The court held that in cases where criminal allegations were made against institutions, agents and individuals, the law required that in the interest of justice, they should be joined as parties to the matter.
Other members of the appeal court panel that delivered the judgment were Justices Tanim Yusuf and Mustapha Mohammed.