•INEC: ANDP candidate not validly nominated
Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
BAYELSA State Governor Duoye Diri has been removed from office.
The State Governorship Election Tribunal, which sat in Abuja, removed him through a two-to-one split verdict.
But the governor and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have said they will appeal the judgment.
The tribunal voided the election of the governor and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhruojakpo, following a petition filed by the Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) its National Chairman, Charles Ogboli, and its candidate in the November 16, 2019 election, King Lucky George, who complained about unlawful exclusion.
In the majority decision, Justices Owodunni and Yunusa Musa (members of the three-man panel) upheld the argument by petitioners’ lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), that the ANDP and its candidates were unlawfully excluded from the election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Both Justices upheld the petition, nullified the election and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.
But the commission said on Monday it exempted George because he was not validly nominated.
The tribunal sat in Abuja due to security concerns in Bayelsa State.
In his dissenting decision, the tribunal chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.
Justice Sirajo held that there was evidence that the ANDP was disqualified from the election for fielding an ineligible candidate.
He held that the party nominated an underage deputy governorship candidate, who admitted that he was 34 years old, instead of the 35 years age bracket the Constitution stipulates.
Justice Sirajo also held that there was evidence that the party failed to substitute the candidate till the statutory window for such substitution elapsed.
He added that what the petitioners brought before the tribunal was a pre-election case since INEC’s decision that disqualified its candidates occurred before the actual election of November 16, 2019.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) had scored 352,552 votes while the PDP got 143,170 votes in the election.
But the APC Governor-elect David Lyon was disqualified following alleged discrepancies in the certificates of his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
The chairman held that under Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the party ought to have, within 14 days, after it got the notification from INEC, gone to a Federal High Court to challenge it.
Reacting to the judgment through a statement by his Acting Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Daniel Alabrah, the ousted governor said: “We trust in the Judiciary and we are appealing the judgment. With God on our side, we will get justice. This is a court of first instance and I have instructed our lawyers to file an appeal. We have a right of appeal, even up to the Supreme Court.”