By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja and Simon Utebor, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has upheld the election of Duoye Diri and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as the state’s Governor and Deputy Governor.
The tribunal’s three-man panel held, in three judgments, yesterday that Diri and Ewhrudjakpo were qualified to contest the election.
The tribunal added that the petitioners failed to prove their claims, among which was that the Deputy Governor altered his declaration of age and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate.
The petitions were filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Owei Woniwei; the United People’s Congress (UPC) and Ibiene Stephen, and Vijah Opuama of the Liberation Movement Party.
The petitioners had claimed that the governor and his deputy lacked the requisite statutory qualifications to contest the election.
The tribunal, led by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, dismissed the petitions for lacking in merit.
Justice Sikiru Owodunni, in the lead judgment in the petition by the AD and Woniwei, held that the petitioners failed to prove the allegation of forgery against Ewhrudjakpo beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Owodunni upheld the objections by the Diri, Ewhrudjakpo, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in holding that the petition lacked merit and constituted “unnecessary waste of time of the court.”
In his reaction, Bayelsa State Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, described the ruling as God’s unfailing love over his life. A statement by his media aide, Mr. Doubara Atasi, also described the judgment as a victory for democracy, rule of law and the government and good people of the state.
He said, “First, I want to thank the Almighty God for His abiding and unfailing love upon my life. Once again, I give Him all the glory for giving the Governor, Douye Diri, and my humble self the opportunity to lead this state and particularly for giving us another victory today,” he said.
In the lead judgment in the petition by Opuama, Justice Sirajo noted that some grounds of the petition bordered substantially on pre-election issues, on which the election tribunal has no jurisdiction.
Justice Sirajo held that grounds 1 and 2 of the petition were within the ambit of pre-election matters and the venue for ventilating such issues is either the Federal High Court or the High Court of the state.
He said, although the petitioner possessed the locus standi to file the petition, he failed to prove the allegations contained therein.
Justice Sirajo held: “There is no evidence before the tribunal to support the allegations. In proving the case of forgery, the body or issuing authorities has the exclusive power to prove allegations of forgery.
“The refusal of the petitioner to call those relevant bodies to give evidence was fatal to his case.’’
“On the whole, the petition lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed. The 3rd and 4th respondents were validly elected by majority votes as the governor and deputy governor of Bayesla State.”