Court of Appeal dismisses Sekibo appeal

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has upheld the decision of the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal which removed Senator George Thompson Sekibo as Senator representing Rivers East Senatorial District at the National Assembly.

The three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Adamu Jauro, held that the appeal lacked merit as it did not show facts as to why the decision of the lower court (Tribunal) should be set aside.

It further held that Sekibo only reproduced his closing remarks at the end of the hearing at the tribunal, but did not challenge the decision reached by the tribunal.

The appellate court panel also held that according to the law, where an issue is not challenged the court has no business considering it.

It therefore held that the petition lacked merit and substance and consequently dismissed the appeal filed by Senator Sekibo.

However, in another judgement delivered by Justice Habeeb Adewale Abiru, the court upheld the election of Senator Magnus Abe of Rivers Southeast.

The appeal brought against Abe by Oloka Johnson Nwogu of the People’s Democratic Party PDP was dismissed for being baseless and lacking in merit.

Justice Abiru said that the issues raised by Nwogu in his petition against Abe’s election were criminal in nature and were not proved beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.

In the judgment in Sekibo’s appeal, the court held that the tribunal was correct in the removal of Sekibo from the Senate on the grounds that the provisions of the electoral act were violated in the conduct of the election.

It would be recalled that the matter was on August 14 adjourned for judgment on to a date to be communicated to parties in the matter.

The appeal was brought by Sekibo against a judgment of the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal delivered in June 2017 which ordered the removal of Sekibo.

Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Goddy Anunihu, in the judgment, ordered the immediate replacement of Sekibo with Andrew Uchendu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which the court held was the winner of the senatorial election.

The Tribunal also directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return it issued to Sekibo and issue a fresh Certificate of Return to Mr Uchendu.

The Tribunal’s decision was predicated on the grounds that Mr Uchendu won the lawful majority vote cast during the Rivers Re-run legislative election.

The Tribunal had also cited substantial noncompliance with the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines for arriving at the decision to order the removal of Sekibo from office.

Sekibo, not satisfied with the judgment of the tribunal, approached the appellate court to upturn the decision of the tribunal.

The appeal with Appeal number: CA/A/EPT/487/2017, dated July 20, 2017 and filed same day by his counsel, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), contains 23 grounds upon which the judgment of the tribunal is been challenged.

Justice Jauro, however, did not upturn the tribunal’s verdict on the grounds that the findings by the tribunal were accurate and correct in law.

The appeal Court held that were an election has been found to have been conducted in breach of the electoral act and INEC guidelines such an election shall be liable to dismissal as rightly done by the tribunal.

In the third appeal on Rivers West Senatorial District, the Appellate court also upheld the election of Senator Osinachukwu Ideozu of the PDP.

The court in the judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Mustapha dismissed the appeal brought against Ideozu by Otelemaba Amachree of the All Progressive Congress.

With the appellate court judgment yesterday, the PDP has one senator, while the APC has two.