Bribery Case Against INEC Officials Transferred To Port-Harcourt

Some of the accused INEC officials during the arraignment at the federal high court in Abuja.
Some of the accused INEC officials during the arraignment at the federal high court in Abuja.

The bribery case filed by the Nigerian Police against 23 officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for alleged bribery, has been transferred from the federal high court, Abuja to the Port Harcourt division of the court.

Recall that the INEC officials were charged after an investigative panel set up by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, accused them of collecting bribes running into millions of Naira from the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in order to influence the December 2016 state and federal legislative rerun election in the State.

Justice John Tsoho, who was handling the case said he was transferring the case, as the offences the defendants were accused of allegedly took place in Port Harcourt.

He held thet the argument of the police that insecurity in Rivers State will affect the trial was not acceptable as there was no evidence to support this.

The judge noted that video clips and photographs which the police presented as evidence of violence in Rivers State, were incidences that took place on or before the December 10 rerun elections.

He also held that the task of providing security in any part of the country rests on the security operatives and not the court.

“I haven’t found out that Rivers State has become ungovernable based on the alleged security situation in the state,” Justice Tsoho ruled. “So, based on Section 22 of the Federal High Court Act, the case has been transferred to the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court.

“Also, in line with Section 93 Subsection 1 and 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, which states that the trial of a case should take place where the offence was committed, I hereby transfer the case.”

Lawyers for the INEC officials had argued that the Federal High Court in Abuja lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case since the offences were allegedly committed in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State.

The police, on their part, argued that the level of insecurity in Rivers State could interfere with the trial.

Last week, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the federal high court Abuja, declared the Police investigative panel that came up with the bribery allegation against Governor Wike and 23 INEC officials, as illegal.

Kolawole, ruling on an application by Governor Wike seeking to declare the report of the committee as null and void, held that the formation of the  panel was strange and unknown to the law as it had members that were not police personnel in it.

“Section 4 of the Police Act allows the Police to set up such a panel to carry out investigations, the section does not however, state that the police can carry out such an investigation with apparatus outside the force,” he ruled.

The judge however refused to nullify the report of the panel, adding that if it contained useful information, it could be turned over to a proper body under the law.