The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State says there is no vacuum in the local councils in the state, saying the 23 elected councils were ready to move into office as soon as the court said so. The chairman of the party in the state, Dr Davis I. Ikanya said in a press conference in Port Harcourt midweek that the case is at the Supreme Court and should not be toyed with.
It is very shocking for the Chairman and Chief Electoral Commissioner of the Rivers State Independent National Electoral Commission (RSIEC) Justice C. I. Uriri to express worries that for some time now, there has not been a local government election in the state, adding that the law abhors vacuum. For the records there is no vacuum in the leadership of our Local Government Areas (LGAs) since the term of office of the elected LGA Chairman and Councillors has not expired and the matter is a subject of litigation before the courts in Nigeria. Justice C. I. Uriri, who served as a judge of the High Court of Rivers State should have known better that there is no vacuum and accordingly advise his appointor – Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (CON) – to stop putting Rivers State on the news for the bad reasons.
The issue about the leadership of the LGAs is a matter before the courts of the land and for a retired judge to claim that there is vacuum is not only unprofessional but smacks of bias and this calls to question his independence to head such a hallowed institution as RISIEC. For the records – Justice C. I. Uriri and RSIEC should note the case of the leadership of the LGAs is a subject of litigation before the Federal High Court (FHC), Court of Appeal (CA) and the Supreme Court (SC) in Suit No: PHC/PH/CS/84/2015, Appeal No: CA/PH/338/2016 and Appeal No: SC/536/2016 respectively and that until the cases are decided by the courts any action by RSIEC and the Rivers State Government on the subject matter is an affront to the rule of law and that the APC will not partake in this illegality.
You can all recall that RSIEC issued out notice in accordance with the RSIEC Law to the public and called on political parties wishing to sponsor candidates to present their candidates and the Local Government Council elections held in Rivers State on 23/05/2015. That the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the political party of Governor of Rivers State – Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (CON) – took out an action by way of originating summons against the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), RSIEC, Governor of Rivers State, Inspector General of Police and State security Service before the FHC Presided over by Justice Lambo Akanbi. The PDP in addition to the originating summons filed alongside the originating summons a motion on notice filed on 27/05/2015 for an order of mandatory injunction setting aside the Local Government Elections conducted by INEC and RSIEC on 23/5/15. That Justice Lambo Akanbi delivered a ruling on 09/07/2015 in favour of the PDP and the elected chairmen of the APC and the 23 LGAs filed an application before the CA for leave to appeal as interested parties. Leave was granted on 20/06/16.
It is important to note that the APC and the 23 LGA chairmen had approached the Federal High Court to challenge their dissolution by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and be joined in the matter in a motion on notice filed on their behalf on the 22/04/15 in Suit No: PHC/PH/CS/84/2015 as necessary parties and to enable them file and serve their counter affidavit in opposition to the motion seeking to nullify that election. The motion also prayed the trial court to stay its ruling to enable them file a counter affidavit in opposition to the motion seeking to nullify their elections. Even when the motion was in the file of the Court, Hon. Justice Lambo Akanbi, formerly of the Port Harcourt Division of the FHC, refused to fix it for hearing and did not even issue hearing notice to the 23 LGA Chairmen.
Notwithstanding the pendency of the appeal and the motion challenging the jurisdiction of the FHC filed on 27/04/15 and the motion for joinder filed by the 23 LGA Chairmen, the learned trial judge – Justice Lambo Akanbi – delivered his ruling on 09/07/15 in favour of Governor Wike and the PDP. Dissatisfied by the decision of the lower court, the 23 LGA Chairmen appealed to the Court of Appeal where Mr. Wike filed an application for a stay of ruling on the matter. The CA, however, ruled against Wike and PDP prompting their move to the SC. Delivering its ruling the SC struck out the matter, dismissing the entire prayer of Wike and Rivers PDP. The apex court ordered the Appeal Court to admit the elected 23 LGA Chairmen as parties. The CA is expected proceed with the matter and deliver judgment. The 23 LGA Chairmen are asking the court to nullify their dismissal from office by Wike as he had no constitutional power to sack elected officials of the third tier of government.
The 23 Chairmen in their appeal have raised the issue the FHC presided over by Justice Lambo Akanbi had no jurisdiction to entertain the subject matter in Suit No: PHC/PH/CS/84/2015. Assuming but without conceding that the issue of jurisdiction is settled against the 23 LGA Chairmen, another issue formulation for determination is whether it was right for the trial judge to conduct further proceedings in Suit No: PHC/PH/CS/84/2015 during the pendency of Appeal No: CA/PH/131/2015. Again, whether it was right for the learned trial judge to hear and determine the motion filed by PDP on 27/05/2015 seeking to nullify the election of the 23 LGA Chairmen as democratically elected council chairmen without first joining them in the suit. Finally whether it was right for the learned trial judge to hear and determine the motion filed by PDP on 27/05/2015 seeking to nullify the election of the 23 LGA Chairmen as democratically elected councils without first hearing and determining the motion of joinder filed by the 23 LGA Chairmen.
These are the issues before the CA and it is very shocking to see that RSIEC headed by a retired judge of the High Court will join Governor Wike to perpetrate illegality by attempting to destroy the res which is the subject matter of Appeal No: CA/PH/131/2015 before the CA. The conduct of Governor Nyesom Wike, PDP and RSIEC is not only wrong but also aimed at bringing disrespect or scorn to the authority of the CA and also intended to interfere with and/or prejudice the case of the APC and the 23 LGA Chairmen as it is before the court as well as to ambush and render any likely decision in favour of the 23 LGA Chairmen ineffective and nugatory. The conduct of the 1st Defendant is a contempt of court and should be dealt with as stated by the Nigerian Supreme Court in Franklin O. Atake vs. The President of the Federation of Nigeria & Ors. (1982) 11 SC 153.
Finally, the constitutionality of the RSIEC Law 2018 is a subject of litigation before the Federal High Court between APC v. INEC & Ors. in Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/13/2018 and it is just but laughable that RSIEC as currently empanelled is engaging in a wild goose chase of conducting an election which RSIEC as a party is aware that the matter is sub judice, that is, the case is actively before the courts and, the belief is that, any words or acts that are likely to influence the case could invite prosecution for contempt of court. As a law abiding party, the APC and the 23 LGA Chairmen will approach the CA with these facts and ensure that the Governor Wike and the PDP are not allowed to benefit for their brazen impunity and lawlessness.