Nigeria: Diri, INEC Urge Appeal Court to Reverse Tribunal's Verdict On Bayelsa

25 September 2020

Abuja — Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Duoye Diri; his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday separately asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which nullified the November 16, 2019 governorship poll.

However, the five-man panel has announced that date for judgment would be communicated to parties in the matter.

The panel similarly, reserved two other appeals for judgment; that of Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Liberation Movement (LM), while it adjourned hearing in the appeal filed by the Accord Party to Friday (today).

The Bayelsa State Election Petition Tribunal had in a two-to-one judgment last month held that the Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) and its governorship candidate, Mr. Lucky King-George, were unlawfully excluded by INEC in the November 16 governorship poll in Bayelsa State that produced Diri as governor.

The tribunal accordingly nullified Diri's election and ordered a fresh poll to be conducted within 90 days.

Dissatisfied, Diri and his party, PDP, and INEC however approached the appellate court to set aside the majority judgment, which had ordered his sack.

In their separate appeals, the three appellants pleaded that the conduct of the gubernatorial election and its outcome which produced Diri as governor be upheld having complied with relevant laws.

In the lead appeal by Governor Diri and argued by his counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), the governor argued that the case of the first respondent was statute-barred as at the time it was filed.

The senior lawyer claimed that the case of the ANDP was a breach of the constitution because it was based on an attempt to field two under aged candidates at the governorship poll contrary to constitutional provisions.

He contended that while INEC disqualified ANDP from participating in the election in October last year, the same respondent, did not challenge the disqualification until February this year, which according to him was more than five months as against the 14 days allowed by law.

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

In his own appeal, the PDP through his counsel, Mr. Yunus Ustaz (SAN), drew the attention of the appellate court to an affidavit of the ANDP National Chairman, where he admitted that the party had no election in the November 16 governorship poll, adding that if a rerun is ordered the ANDP has nothing to gain because the case has become academic.

In his own appeal INEC, through his lawyer, Mr. Ibrahim Bawa (SAN), informed the panel that the alteration done to Section 285 of the 1999 constitution has restored power of the electoral body to screen and disqualify any candidate wrongly nominated by a political party and therefore urged the appellate court to affirm the constitutional provisions of INEC to disqualify candidate in an election.

Responding, the ANDP through his lawyer, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), urged the court to uphold the majority decision of the tribunal, which nullified the November 16 governorship poll and ordered a fresh one.

Ogunwumiju insisted that candidate of the ANDP was lawfully nominated and it was conveyed to INEC, adding that the candidate was unlawfully disqualified and his party unlawfully excluded.

Presiding Justice of the five man panel, Justice Adriza Mshella, however announced that date for judgment would be communicated to parties in the matter.

The panel similarly, reserved two other appeals for judgment; that of Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Liberation Movement (LM), while it adjourned hearing in the appeal filed by the Accord Party to Friday.

Meanwhile, the appeal of the United Peoples Congress (UPC) and its governorship candidate, Mr. Stephen Ibiene against the election of Senator Duoye Diri as governor of Bayelsa State was dismissed for want of diligent prosecution.

When the matter was called yesterday, there was no representation for the appellants.

In a short ruling, the five-man panel of the appellate court presided by Justice Adzira Mshella, held that the appeal is deemed abandoned and subsequently dismissed it.

Other of the panel are; Obande Fetus Ogbuinya, Peter Olabisi Ige, Jamilu Yamama Tukur and Folasade Ayodeji Ojo.

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