Rivers Rerun Election : Court Transfers Suit To Portharcout
Justice John Tsoho of an Abuja Federal High Court, Abuja, has transferred the case filed by the Nigerian Police Force against 23 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials to Port Harcourt division of the court.
They were charged by the Federal Government over allegation of receiving the sum of N360 million as bribe from the Rivers State Government to influence the outcome of the December 10, 2016, rerun election in the state.
The officials were to enter plea on a 7-count charge on March 14, but the arraignment could not hold due to an application filed by their counsel challenging jurisdiction of the court to conduct the trial in Abuja instead of Port-Harcourt.
When the trial resumed, counsel to the 1st to 20th defendants, Ahmed Raji SAN argued and adopted the application he filed pursuant to Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution; Section 45(a) of Federal High Court Act; Sections 93, 386 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Specifically, Raji’s application urged the court to decline hearing of the charge on grounds of territorial jurisdiction and seeking, “in essence striking out the charge” or in the alternative, “an order transferring the charge to Port-Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court.
However, delievering his ruling, Justice John Tsoho said the argument of the police that the insecurity in Rivers State will affect the trial was not tenable.
He said that there was no evidence placed before the court to how pervasive insecurity in Rivers State.
Justice Tsoho further said that the video clips and photographs tendered by the police were incidences that happened before the December 10th rerun elections.
He stated in his ruling that the responsibility of providing security in any part of the country rests on the security operatives and not the court.
“I haven’t found out that Rivers State has become ungovernable based on the alleged security situation in the state.
“So, based on Section 22 of the Federal High Court Act, the case has been transferred to the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court.
“Also, in line with Section 93 Sub1 and 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, which states that the trial of a case should take place where the offence was committed, I hereby transfer the case,” he said.
Prosecution counsel, Aliyu Alilu had told the court to discountenance their submissions for lacking in merit.
He described as “misconception” the statement of Raji challenging the validity of the counter affidavit deposed to by the litigation officer in the office of the AGF.
Alilu clarified the issue by telling the court that the deponent, Numa Ganawo Wande got his information from the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Dan Okoro, who headed the IGP’s Special Investigation Team on the electoral crisis before, during and after the legislative re-run election in Rivers state on December 10, 2016.