By Taiye Agbaje
The Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, reserved judgment in the petition filed by Mr Tonye Cole, the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s candidate in the March 18 governorship poll in Rivers.
Cole is challenging the victory of Gov. Siminalayi Fubara of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The three-member tribunal, headed by Justice Cletus Emifonye, adjourned the matter for judgment after parties adopted their final written addresses and presented their arguments for and against the petition.
While Fubara scored 302,614 votes to win the election, the APC candidate had 95,274 votes while Beatrice Itubo of the Labour Party (LP) scored 22,224 votes to come third.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the sitting on Wednesday, Chief Tuduru Ede, SAN, the lead counsel to Cole, said about 40 witnesses were called and exhibits running into a thousand were tendered in the course of the case.
“The main plank of our case is that the 2nd respondent (Fubara), as at the time of the election, was not qualified to run.
“He didn’t resign from his post as Accountant-General and Permanent Secretary in Rivers State.
“We led evidence to that effect and we await the judgment of the tribunal,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr Cole, who was at the tribunal, said he was trusting the tribunal and God that justice would be done in his petition.
“First of all, I am extremely grateful to the team of lawyers that stood their ground, refused to be intimidated, put very accurate facts forward.
“I am very satisfied with what has been presented today as our final address.
“And I am trusting the tribunal and trusting my Lord, God Almighty, that justice will be done,” he said.
He said he was in the tribunal to ensure that he took back the mandate that was stolen from him.
“We know exactly what happened at the election day but that is very different from what we are doing in court.
“What we are here to do in court is to ensure that we secure the mandate that was taken off us in March and I just want to assure everybody in Rivers that we will do everything within our power to ensure that justice is done.
“We have presented the case, we are just waiting for the result. The judgment is just a few weeks away. So let’s be patient, stand firm, we are fighting this all the way to the end,” he said.
The Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr Nyesom Wike, who also attended the proceeding, however refused to speak to newsmen.
He simply said: “Go and speak to them (pointing to the lawyers).”
Efforts to also speak to counsel to the respondents; Mr Kanu Agabi, SAN (INEC); Mr Emmanuel Ukala, SAN (Fubara), were unsuccessful as they declined to speak, while Mr Joseph Daudu (PDP) could not be reached.
NAN reports that while Tonye Cole is the petitioner, INEC, Fubara and PDP are 1st to 3rd respondents respectively in the case.
The tribunal had, on Sept. 7, also reserved judgment in the petition filed by the governorship candidate of Labour Party against Fubara’s victory.(NAN)