(By Silas Tams) – For some months, opposition political parties in Rivers State have been battling with attempts to use the courts to stop their candidates from contesting in the 2023 governorship elections. Recently, a new twist was added by the Executive Orders of Governor Nyesom Wike, which the parties allege was aimed at crowding them out of the political space in the state.
From loud protests, the aggrieved parties began heading to the courts to challenge what they considered as obvious cases of irregularities, and the courts have not failed them.
On Wednesday, 30 November, 2023, Justice Phoebe Ayua of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt dismissed the suit of Hon. Bernard M. Mikko challenging the eligibility of the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Pastor Tonye Cole, and the gubernatorial primary of the 26th of May 2022 in Suit number FHC/PH/CS/94/2022.
He held that the Court lacked jurisdiction to dabble in the internal affairs of the All Progressives Congress in a suit questioning the conduct of the APC governorship primary for the 2023 general elections.
Meanwhile, an Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt had on Tuesday set aside two judgments of the Federal High Courts in Rivers state which nullified the nomination of candidates of the Action Democratic Party, ADP, and African Democratic Congress, ADC.
In a unanimous judgment by a three – man panel led by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, the court granted the prayers of the ADP and ADC, adding that the Federal High Court should not have entertained the suit in the first place.
They held that the two political parties validly nominated their candidates and should participate in the 2023 elections.
Speaking on the development, counsel to ADP, Donald Otogbo, said the judgment has confirmed that democracy is at work in Rivers State, just as the
ADP chairman in the State, Christian Kendrick said that it was victory, not just for their party but for Rivers State and democracy in Nigeria.
In a related development, the Accord party has dragged the Rivers State Government to the High Court over threat to seal its party secretariat in Port Harcourt.
The action of Accord party was occasioned by the recent issuance of notice of a shut down of the building housing their secretariat by the Rivers State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development on the grounds that the owner diverted it for political campaigns instead of residential purposes.
The party was contending that the Rivers State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development under the law, does not have the powers to seal off the secretariat of the party, and that the use of the building for party office is not a violation of the Land (Fees) Regulation 2010 and the Executive Order 22 of the Rivers State Government.