Bayelsa Election: Diri, INEC, Table Fresh Request Before Appeal Court Over Tribunal Judgment
The governor of Bayelsa state, Duoye Diri, has prayed the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, to reverse the decision of the Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which nullified the November 16, 2019 poll in the state.
Naija News reports that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have also approached the appellate court praying it to reverse the tribunal’s judgement as requested by Governor Diri.
The appellants in their separate appeals prayed the court to uphold that the conduct of the governorship election and its outcome which produced Diri as governor complied with relevant laws.
Diri’s counsel, Chris Uche, (SAN), who argued on his behalf, told the court that the case of the first respondent (Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP)) was statute-barred as at the time it was filed.
The lawyer stressed that the case of the ANDP was a breach of the 1999 Constitution as it was based on an attempt to field two under-aged candidates for governor and deputy governor, arguing that when INEC disqualified the ANDP from participating in the election in October 2019, the party did not challenge the disqualification until February 2020.
Uche said filing the suit in February meant that it was filed more than five months later as against the 14 days allowed by law. He urged the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal which nullified Diri’s election and uphold the minority judgment saying it was based on sound reasoning and law.
On its part, the PDP through Yunus Ustaz (SAN), its counsel, argued that if the court upheld the judgment of the tribunal and a rerun was ordered, the ANDP had nothing to gain since the case had become academic.
Similarly, in its appeal through its lawyer, Ibrahim Bawa (SAN), INEC informed the panel that the alteration done to Section 285 of the 1999 constitution had restored the electoral umpire’s power to screen and disqualify any candidate wrongly nominated by a political party.
The counsel urged the appeal court to affirm the constitutional provisions of INEC to disqualify candidates in an election.
Responding, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), counsel to ANDP, urged the court to uphold the majority decision of the tribunal, adding that it was because the candidate of the ANDP was lawfully nominated and it was conveyed to INEC.
The INEC counsel further argued that the candidate was unlawfully disqualified and his party unlawfully excluded.
A five-man panel of justices led by Justice Adzira Mshella, announced that a date for judgment would be communicated to parties in the matter.
On August 17, the Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal delivered a judgment which nullified the election of Diri as Bayelsa governor.
In a two-to-one judgment, the tribunal held that the ANDP and its governorship candidate, Lucky King-George, were unlawfully excluded by INEC in the November 16 governorship election in the state. The tribunal accordingly ordered a fresh poll in 90 days.