Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN),said on Saturday that the verdict of the Supreme Court on the governorship election petition in Rivers State was capable of killing election petitions in the country.

Sagay criticised the positions taken by each of the judges that adjudicated on the case filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, against the election of Governor Nyesom Wike, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the election.

Sagay made his position known in his analysis of the judgment which he titled, “The Supreme Court and the Rivers State Governorship case: A farewell to elections petitions?” a copy of which was made available to our correspondent in Abuja.

He criticised the highest court’s decision rejecting the use of card reader on the premise that its use would ‘dethrone’ and ‘depose’ the voter register as explained by one of the judges that sat on the matter.

Sagay said, “The question may be asked, how does the card reader ‘depose’, or ‘dethrone’ the voter register. After verification by the card reader, the voter’s name still has to be identified in the voter register and ticked before he can vote.

“It must be noted that both the Tribunal and Court of Appeal emphasised that, the card reader was intended to and did strengthen the application and efficacy of the Electoral Act, by ensuring a credible election for the benefit of Nigerians.

“The Election Tribunal stated expressly that “the usage of the card reader was complementary to the usage of the voter register. In other words, the two work hand-in- hand towards ensuring credible elections.

“The voter register properly come to play where a prospective voter has been screened by the card reader. The sum total of the role of the card reader is that it is complementary to the usage of the voter register.

Sagay probed where the judge discovered the ‘deposition’, and ‘dethronement’, of the voter register by the card reader, and answered that there was nowhere that position could be substantiated.

He said what the judge did was to give the card reader a bad name in order to subject it to judicial execution.

He explained, “Has the card reader eliminated the voter register? No! Has it brought integrity and transparency to the voter register and the whole electoral process? Yes!

“All the card reader does is to act as a gate man for the voter register. There was no dethronement and deposition here. There was only a step forward towards free, fair and credible elections – a procedure for sanitising our elections and for eliminating fraud, dishonesty and rigging from our electoral process. Should any Supreme Court anywhere in the world resist and reject such a beneficial development in the electoral process? No.

“The law as stated in Section 49 has not in any way been altered by the card reader. After being accredited through the card reader the voter still has to have his name checked in the voter register, and to have it ticked before voting.

“Without the process of identification and recording by the card reader, the old system of free ticking of all names in the voter register followed by thumb imprinting in thousands to match the number ticked will continue and our elections will simply be fraud writ large.”

Sagay added that the Supreme Court also asserted wrongly that in order for an election to be nullified, the petitioner has to establish that not only (was there a substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, but additionally, the petitioner must show that the substantial non-compliance affected the result of the election.

He quoted Section 139(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, to buttress his points.

The section says, “An election shall not be liable to be invalidated by reason of non-compliance with this Act if it appears to the Electoral Tribunal or Court that the election

He said it was clear that the provision on substantial compliance in section 146 of the Electoral Act, 2006, was conjunctive in nature.

He stated, “For an election not to be invalidated, (i) it must comply substantially with the provisions of the Act and (ii) non-compliance, (whether substantial or insubstantial) must not affect substantially, the result of the elections.

“In other words, any election has to clear two hurdles in order to be valid; (i) it must comply substantially with the provisions of the Act; (ii) where there was any non-compliance, no matter how insignificant, it must not have substantial effect on the result.

“So all this talk of superseding and dethroning, has no bearing whatsoever on Section 49 of the Electoral Act 2010. There is no provision of the Electoral Act banning or prohibiting the use of card readers. It is wrong of any one to assert that the use of card readers is electronic voting. It shows that such a person cannot distinguish between accreditation and voting.”

He added that since the case of Peterside and the APC was due to the violence, carnage and war conditions in April 2015, there were no governorship elections known to law, therefore, the onus fell on Wike and the PDP to establish that there were valid elections on those dates.

Sagay said, “Not only did the Supreme Court overlook the law in this regard, but Kekere-Ekun, JSC, went so far as to say that even if Wike and the PDP had confessed that there had been no election, it would have made no difference. This is simply unbelievable.”

He said if Wike and the Rivers State PDP could plunge the state into so much violence in the presence of such a large Federal Armed Force, during the rerun election, he wondered what the governor and his party would have done to the APC on April 11, 2015, when the Rivers Private Armies had the backing of the Federal Forces at that time.

Culled from PunchNewspapers