Nigeria: Bayelsa Poll - Governor Diri, INEC Ask Appeal Court to Reverse Tribunal's Judgment

24 September 2020

The Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had on August 17 nullified the election of Mr Diri as governor.

Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State on Thursday in Abuja asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which nullified the November 16, 2019 governorship poll in the state.

Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have also approached the appellate court asking it to reverse the tribunal's judgement.

In their separate appeals, the appellants prayed the court to uphold that the conduct of the governorship election and its outcome which produced Mr Diri as governor complied with relevant laws.

Arguing on behalf of Mr Diri, his counsel, Chris Uche, (SAN), 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.

Mr Uche maintained 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.

The lawyer argued that when INEC disqualified the ANDP from participating in the election in October 2019, the party did not challenge the disqualification until February 2020.

He said that filing the suit in February meant that it was filed more than five months later as against the 14 days allowed by law.

Mr Uche urged the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal which nullified Mr Diri's election and uphold the minority judgment saying it was based on sound reasoning and law.

For its part, the PDP through its counsel, Yunus Ustaz, SAN, 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.

INEC, in its appeal through its lawyer, Ibrahim Bawa, SAN, 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.

Mr Bawa urged the appellate court to affirm the constitutional provisions of INEC to disqualify candidates in an election.

Responding, counsel to ANDP, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, urged the court to uphold the majority decision of the tribunal.

He said this was because the candidate of the ANDP was lawfully nominated and it was conveyed to INEC.

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He further argued that the candidate was unlawfully disqualified and his party unlawfully excluded.

Justice Adzira Mshella, who presided over the five-man panel of justices announced that a date for judgment would be communicated to parties in the matter.

The Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had on August 17 delivered a judgment which nullified the election of Mr Diri as governor.

The tribunal in a two-to-one judgment held that the ANDP and its governorship candidate, Lucky King-George, were unlawfully excluded by INEC in the Nov. 16 governorship poll in the state.

The tribunal accordingly ordered a fresh poll in 90 days.

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