ABUJA – The Supreme Court, has upheld the election of Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State.
The court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, on Thursday, dismissed as lacking in merit, an appeal the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Tonye Cole, filed to challenge the outcome of the governorship election that held in the state on March 18, 2023.
In the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, the apex court said it found no reason to dislodge the concurrent verdicts of the Court of Appeal and the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which upheld Fubara’s victory at the poll.
The court held that Cole did not establish that the election was not conducted in compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
It will be recalled that the APC pulled out from the case against governor Fubara of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, while it was being heard by the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal.
Despite the position of the party not to challenge the declaration of Fubara as winner of the gubernatorial contest by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mr. Cole, vowed to prosecute his petition to its logical conclusion.
INEC had declared that Fubara of the PDP polled a total of 302,614 votes to defeat his closets rival, Cole of the APC who got a total of 95,274 votes.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll, Cole approached the tribunal to challenge it.
The appellant, among other things, alleged that the Rivers State governorship poll was marred by corrupt practices, insisting that it was not conducted in substantial compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
More so, Cole, alleged that Fubara did not validly resign his previous position as required by the law, before the election held.
He alleged that Fubara continued to sign documents as the Accountant-General of Rivers State, even after he was nominated as the candidate of the PDP for the governorship election.
Consequently, he urged the tribunal to nullify the Certificate of Return that was issued to Fubara and declare that he was not the bonafide winner of the election.
Cole further prayed the tribunal to declare that he was the authentic winner of the gubernatorial contest.
However, both the tribunal and the Court of Appeal dismissed his case for want of merit.
Though the appellate court, in the verdict it delivered on November 28, 2023, affirmed the unanimous judgement of the tribunal that dismissed Cole’s case, it, however, faulted the lower court over its position that the petition was invalidated by the withdrawal of APC which has the statutory responsibility of nominating and sponsoring a candidate for the election.
The appellate court held that the fact that APC withdrew from the petition against Fubara’s victory, did not prohibit its candidate, Cole, from pursuing the appeal in his own right.
The Supreme Court had earlier dismissed a separate appeal that was entered against Fubara by the candidate of the Allied People’s Movement, APM, in the election, Innocent Kere.
The appeal was dismissed after the Appellants, through their lawyer, applied to withdraw the case.