Rivers Poll: APC Withdraws Petition As Cole Opts To Fight On
Tonye Cole

The leadership crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State has taken a dramatic dimension after the party announced that it had withdrawn its petition challenging the outcome of the March 18 governorship election at the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

Africa Today News, New York reports that Pastor Tonye Cole who is the governorship candidate of the party is challenging the outcome of the election, which many believe was marred with violence and irregularities.

In a surprise move earlier in the week, the state chapter of the party said it had withdrawn its petition against the Peoples Democratic Party  (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the March 18, 2023 governorship election.

With the withdrawal of the APC, Cole remains the only petitioner against the INEC, PDP, and its candidate, Fubara Siminalayi.

When the matter commenced, counsel for the APC, Solomon Umoh, told the tribunal that he would be taking over as counsel for the party following a motion for change of counsel before the tribunal. He also informed the court that his clients would like their names to be struck out from the petition as applicants.

In his position, Jibrin Okutepa, who was the former counsel for Cole and the APC, told the tribunal that he was not briefed on the new development by the party.

However, in their decision on the application, the three-man panel led by Justice Cletus Emifoniye, granted the application for change of counsel and granted the motion as prayed by striking out the APC as a petitioner.

Read Also: Payment Of Fuel Subsidy Unsustainable, APC Govs Insists

The APC’s withdrawal was brought pursuant to order 9 rule 15 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2019.

One of the grounds for the application, amongst others, is that “there is the need to seek the leave of this tribunal to strike out the name of the second petitioner/applicant, as the applicant has no intention to participate in this petition.”

Worried by the withdrawal of the petition, the spokesman of the Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, Sogbeye Eli, said the stories making the rounds about the withdrawal were false.

Eli noted in a statement that Cole, as the first petitioner on record, was still before the court, adding that the second petitioner on record withdrew the petition through Solomon Umoh.

“The withdrawal of the second petitioner yesterday follows the objection by the local chapter of the party to being led at the tribunal by Henry A. Bello.

“The facts forming the grounds for the aforementioned objection border on trust and are not unconnected with the concomitant effect of the decision of the High Court of Rivers State in the case of Ibrahim Umah and Ors versus the APC in 2018 on the party’s fortunes at the 2019 general elections.

“It is an error of judgement, therefore, for Sahara Reporters or any other medium to present yesterday’s development with such slant that misleads the public to the conclusion that the petition challenging the declaration by the INEC of the winner of the Rivers 2023 governorship election has been withdrawn. For emphasis sake, the party’s right to withdraw does not sound a death knell to the petition by Tonye Cole, who is now the sole petitioner.

“Regardless of the development, a diligent reading of section 133 of the Electoral Act, 2022, in conjunction with sections 29 and 33 to the First Schedule thereto clarifies the status of Tonye Cole’s petition challenging the declaration of Siminalayi Fubara of the PDP as governor-elect.”

He called on the general public and Rivers people to disregard the withdrawal story, adding, “We are still before the tribunal.”

The leadership crisis rocking the party has continued, just as different factions have continued to lay claims over who calls the shot at the party.

Africa Today News, New York

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *