▪︎ As court reserves judgment
By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Duoye Diri, his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Thursday, separately asked the Court of Appeal in Abuja to reverse the decision of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which nullified the November 16 2019 governorship poll.
The Bayelsa State Governorship election petition tribunal had on August 14, 2020 in a split decision of two to one, nullifed the November 16 , 2019 poll on the ground that a political party, Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party ANDP, was unlawfully excluded from the election.
The tribunal subsequently ordered INEC to conduct a fresh one that will involve the ANDP and its governorship candidate.
This prompted the governor, PDP and INEC to file separate appeals to challenge the judgment of the tribunal.
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 Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party 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.
▪︎ As court reserves judgment