THE Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Thursday, nullified the election of chairmen and councillors of 22 out of the 23 local government areas in Rivers State.
The court’s decision, sacking the local government chairmen, came shortly after a bomb scare the court premises.
It was learnt that two objects suspected to be dynamites were removed from the back gate of the court located along Station Road in the state capital, a development that scared court workers and delayed the court proceedings.
The council chairmen had sought an injunction from the court to restrain the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, from dissolving the elected local government councils.
Justice Akanbi described as an abuse of law the action of the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission, who went ahead to conduct the council election when the court had ordered that parties involved in a case brought to it by the state Peoples Democratic Party to maintain the status quo.
The state PDP had earlier gone to court to stop RSIEC from conducting the May 23, 2015 local government election.
Akanbi, however, said in his ruling that the conduct of the council election on May 23, 2015 was an aberration and a ‘flagrant’ disregard of a subsisting order of the court.
The presiding judge explained that the decision of the court was in the defence of democracy.
On the bomb scare at the Federal High Court, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad, dismissed claims in some quarters that there was a blast.
Mohammad explained that though there was an attempt to set the court ablaze by unknown persons, security operatives were able to foil the plan.
“There was an unsuccessful attempt to torch the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt today. But there was never an explosion as being speculated. Investigation has commenced in earnest,” the state police spokesman said.
Speaking, the state PDP chairman, Mr. Felix Obuah, described the judgment as victory for democracy, even as he advised the sacked council chairmen to join hands with the Wike-led administration to move the state forward.
“We are happy with the judgment. We thank God that in spite of the impunity of the past administration, the court straightened the K-leg. By virtue of the court ruling, I will advise the sacked local government chairmen to immediately vacate the offices they illegally occupied.
“They should hand over to various heads of departments in the local councils. I will also advise them to join hands with the present administration of Governor Nyesom Wike in the task of moving our dear state forward,” Obua added.
But the state Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Davies Ikanya, described the nullification of the council election as sad and unfortunate.
Ikanya, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant, Chief Chukwuemeka Eze, explained that his party would study the court ruling and appeal against it, describing it as a judgment against the people.
He, however, denied claims that the APC was responsible for the bomb scare at the Federal High Court.
“On the explosion, this is just a make-up act by the PDP as such acts are notorious with their activities in Rivers State to justify any of their diabolical and evil acts against Rivers State and her people,” Ikanya said.
Also, a statement from the Government House in Port Harcourt described RSIEC’s actions in the conduct of the council election as antithetical to the principles of the rule of law.
The statement signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Sir Opunabo Inko-Tariah, read, “In the eyes of the court, and rightly too – the actions of (former governor Rotimi) Amaechi and the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission are antithetical to the principles of the rule of law, designed to foist a state of utter helplessness on the court.
“Many cannot fathom the rationale in conducting a local government election five days to his exit as governor of Rivers State when, for close to two years, he administered the local governments through caretaker committees.
“It is irrefragable therefore, that the conduct of the election was only a decoy to steal more money from the system and also cover up for the ones stolen.”