Time Runs Out For Rivers Gov Wike As Tribunal Moves To Deliver Early Judgment
Time appears running out on the embattled Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike as the state governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja on Monday said it is readjusting its schedule to be able to deliver its ruling with less than 46 days out of the 180 days allocated to the election tribunals by the Electoral Act to conclude their assignments.
Accordingly, the All Progressives Congress [APC] and its candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside who brought the petition against Governor Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] are now left with two days to conclude their case, instead of their initial four days.
While the tribunal equally reduced the respondents’ days from 10 days to six days to enable the tribunal give judgment within the 180 days time frame. Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Suleiman Ambrosa announced the modification yesterday stressing that if the adjustment is not made, the tribunal will be left with just one day to write its judgment, without parties having time to make their final address.
His words, “we have 46 days left from today but with the deduction of Sallah holiday and other work free days, it will leave the tribunal with 36 days and just one day to write our judgment, without parties having time to address the tribunal, if we go by the earlier schedule. The petitioners days are now reduced from 14 to 10 while the respondents each, from 10 to six. This is to enable time for the tribunal to give judgment.”
After the announcement, the tribunal stood down for a while at the instance of counsel to the petitioner, Chief Akin Olujinmi [SAN] who requested time to consult with his legal team on the development. When the tribunal resumed, Olujinmi applied for additional two days to enable him close his case but was overruled by the tribunal.
Counsel to the respondents equally opposed Olujinmi’s application for additional time. In his submission, counsel to INEC, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu [SAN] said it would not be right to compel the tribunal, after the well considered consideration of the time. He added that if the court is deposed to changing its mind, it should equally give the respondents nine days, by removing one day.
Counsel to the PDP, Chief Chris Uche [SAN] who cited the provisions of paragraph 18  to the first schedule to the Evidence Act said it was a bit late to seek a reversal of the order made by the court. The petitioners have so far only called 46 witnesses to prove its case including independent witnesses drawn from the INEC, Army and the Department of States Service [DSS].
Both the Electoral Act [section 134  and the 1999 constitution [section 285 provides that an election petition must be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the final result of the election. The Act further provides that an election tribunal must deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition.