[dropcap type=”3″]P[/dropcap]etitioners at the Rivers State governorship election petition tribunal – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the last governorship election, Dakuku Peterside – have complained of persistent threats to the safety of their witnesses.
The petitioners, who have indicated their intention to call 200 witnesses, told the tribunal yesterday in Abuja that their witnesses were receiving threat messages on their telephones from yet-to-be identified persons.
Lawyers to the petitioners, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), who made the compliant, said “those who have appeared before the tribunal to testify are warned not to return to Port-Harcourt.
“Some of those we brought today have received calls on phone, threatening to deal with them. A situation where lawyers and witnesses are being threatened will threaten justice. We want the court to be firm on this,” Olujinmi said.
Responding, lawyers to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election, Nyesom Wike, Chris Uche (SAN) and Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), denied knowledge of such development.
Ukala said it was expected that Olujinmi informed them about such development before bringing it to the knowledge of the tribunal, while Uche said it was mere allegation and urged the tribunal not to take it serious.
Tribunal Chairman, Justice Mohammed Ambrosa, said, “we are not comfortable where those who appear in court are not free.”
He advised that those who receive such threat messages should report to security agencies, who must investigate and take other necessary action. “They should act. It is their responsibility,” Justice Ambrosa said.
The petitioners have called 22 witnesses as at when the tribunal rose yesterday. One of the four witnesses called yesterday, Dr Lawrence Chukwu, who served as Deputy Chairman when Wike was Chairman of Obia-Akpor Local Government, was emphatic when he insisted that election never held on April 11 in Rivers State.
Chukwu, who said he served as APC’s Collation Officer for Wards 1 – 8 in the Local Government, said although he saw some few election materials in his polling unit, “there were no election materials in majority of the polling units in the area I covered.75 per cent of the polling units in my area did not get ballot papers. There are 17 Wards in my LG.”
When asked by Wike’s lawyer whether he was not impeached as Deputy Chairman and that his decision to testify against PDP was because he has not forgiven Wike, Chukwu said he was wrongly impeached, went to court and was reinstated.
He said his decision to testify was informed by his quest for the truth and belief that the right thing must be done.
Another witness from Asari-Toru LG, Chief Opuda Fred Hosfall said there was no election because election materials were burnt and that intending voters were prevented from voting by thugs and militants loyal to the PDP, who engaged in shooting.
“There was no election. Election did not take place on 11 April, 2015 in Rivers State. Materials for the election were burnt. Whether those responsible were charged or not; I may not know.
“The shooting by thugs, loyal to the PDP did not allow us to vote and to carry out their responsibilities. No election took place in Asari LG of Rivers State. The materials were burnt with the vehicles hired to carry the materials. Those claiming there was election are in a dream land,” he said.
Another witness from Andoni LG, Steve Gad, when cross-examined by lawyer to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), said election did not hold.
“There was no accreditation in my area. Materials were snatched just immediately after the INEC officials set up their materials before they were snatched by thugs and militants loyal to PDP, there was no election at all.”
Gad, who said he served as APC polling agent for Unit 012, Ward 9, insisted that PDP thugs and militants disrupted proceedings.
When asked by Wike’s lawyer whether he reported the incident to the police, Gad said “There was no need to make written reports to the police because two of their men witnessed what happened.”
On whether he was aware that INEC announced results for the election, Gad, who said he is a lawyer, said: “No election held. And accordingly, there was no result. The purported results announced were cooked up.”
Prince Nzidee, who was called as the petitioners’ fourth witness, equally insisted that reports declared for all the units he monitored, as agent of the APC, were allocated figures because no election took place in all the 11 wards in his Local Government.