7th October, 2010
Mr. Chukwu had gone to the court asking it to determine whether Rotimi Amaechi, in the eye of the law, is not the person who has been in office as the duly elected Governor of Rivers state since May, 29th, 2007 pursuant to the gubernatorial election conducted by INEC in which he was considered by the Supreme Court, as the lawfully sponsored candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. Chief Chukwu sought for a declaration by the court that Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s tenure will end on 28th May, 2011 and that he cannot remain in office after that date, except if he re-contests and wins a fresh election.
He also sought for an order compelling PDP to schedule and conduct primary election in the state to choose its gubernatorial candidate at the same time the party will be conducting primaries to choose candidates who will contest on its platform in all states of the federation where the tenure of office of current incumbent governors will expire by law on 28th May, 2011. He further sought for an order compelling INEC to conduct gubernatorial election in Rivers state on the same date and at the same time when Governorship elections are scheduled to be held in other states of the federation.
Chief Chukwu, who claimed to be a bona fide member of the Peoples Democratic Party with membership card number 8557604 and until July 2010, the state Legal Adviser of the PDP in Rivers state told, the court that under the Electoral Act 2010, that failure of a party to hold its primaries as stipulated under the law and at appropriate time carries a sanction of disqualifying the party and its members from fielding candidates at the relevant election and urged the party to grant the orders he is asking for.
In challenging the suit, counsel to Governor Rotimi Amaechi; Prince Lateef Fagbemi argued that the constitution amendment bill upon which Chief Chukwu is questioning the tenure of Amaechi has not been accented to by President Goodluck Jonathan. He contended that Governor Amaechi took oath of office on the 26th of October 2007 and that in line with the provisions of section 180 (2) (a) of the 1999 constitution, that his term will end on 26th October, 2011.
Prince Fagbemi relied on the decision of the Supreme Court on Mr. Peter Obiâ€™s case against INEC where the court ruled that the Anambra state Governorâ€™s tenure started to run from the day he took oath of office.
In his judgment this morning, Justice Abdu- Kafarati held that the Supreme Court did not nullify Omehiaâ€™s election but only declared Rotimi Amaechi as the validly nominated candidate of the PDP which won the election in Rivers state. In effect, the court held that even though Amaechi took oath of office on the 26th of October 2007, that his tenure started counting from 29th of May 2007 when other Governors elected through the April 14th general election took oath of office.
The court held that the case of Rotimi Amaechi is similar to that of former Governor of Oyo state; Mr. Ladoja, who was unlawfully impeached by a minority of the Oyo state House of Assembly members but whose impeachment was reversed by the apex court but could not be rewarded by any tenure elongation by the apex court to make up for the eleven months his impeachment lasted.
According to the judge, â€œThere is no provision in the constitution to compensate a Governor who was unlawfully impeached and there is also none for a Governor wrongfully substituted as in the case of Rotimi Amaechiâ€. All the reliefs sought by Chief Chukwu were granted by the court.
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja