•Bayelsa gov  hails verdict, Sylva goes to A’Court

 

From Godwin Tsa Abuja and Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa

 

The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, affirmed the re-election of Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State after dismissing the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous judgment, the Justice Adekunle Adeleye-led three-member tribunal, held that the petitioners failed to adduce any credible evidence to substantiate any of the allegations they raised against the outcome of the poll.

It struck out as incompetent, all the additional proof of evidence as well as statements on oath of some of the witnesses that testified for the petitioners.

According to the tribunal, the law expressly provided that an election petition must be filed not later than 21 days after the result of an election was declared. It held that such a petition must, at the time it was filed, be accompanied with written statements of all the intended witnesses.

The tribunal held that the decision of Sylva and his party to file their additional proof of evidence and statement on oath of witnesses long after they had filed the petition was “tantamount to a surreptitious attempt to amend the case of the petitioners.”

More so, the tribunal dismissed the allegation that the Deputy Governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, tendered forged university degree and NYSC exemption certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification to contest the election.

It held that the allegation was a pre-election matter that ought to have been litigated before the Federal High Court, adding that the matter had become statute-barred since the petitioners failed to challenge the genuineness of the certificates 14 days after it was submitted to INEC.

Besides, it held that the issue of Ewhrudjakpo’s educational qualification was previously determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The tribunal said it took judicial notice of the fact that the third respondent, Ewhrudjakpo, is a legal practitioner, saying it was satisfied that he was eminently qualified to contest the election.

Likewise, the tribunal noted that whereas Sylva and his party prayed it to declare that they were the valid winners of the governorship election, they equally applied for the same election to be declared invalid.

It held that prayers of the petitioners were contradictory, adding that Sylva and the APC did not tender any electoral material to show that any irregularity occurred during the election.

It held that the petitioners were unable to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on them by the law, stressing that they failed to show polling units by polling units, the particulars of the non compliance they alleged and how it substantially affected the outcome of the election.

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Similarly, the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja also affirmed the victory of Governor Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The three-member panel headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu held that the petition was bereft of substance and accordingly, dismissed it.

The tribunal held that the petitioners, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP),  and their candidates, Murtala Ajaka and  Abdullahi Bayawo failed to prove allegations of over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 in the petition.

The panel, in a unanimous decision, held that all the witness evidence filed before it were incompetent and full of inconsistencies.

It also agreed with the submissions of the respondents that the allegations of forgery raised in the petitions were a pre-election matter, which ought to have been raised 14 days after the documents were submitted to the INEC.

Meanwhile, Governor Diri has said his victory would spur him to serve the state better in his second term.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, described the petition as a “needless distraction,” insisting that by the judgment, the judiciary had again proven that it remained the last hope of the common man.

“Once again, I use this opportunity to thank my people of Bayelsa State, who graciously and freely gave me this mandate. It is not my victory but that of the people of Bayelsa.

“As I always pledge, our administration is people-focused and people-oriented. So, this will again give us a better latitude to continue to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people.”

Sylva, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the tribunal judgment.

The former minister who held a meeting with elders and stakeholders of the party after the judgment to discuss the next course of action, directed his legal team to immediately seek justice at the Court of Appeal.

Sylva said: “We are not satisfied with the decision of the tribunal. But this is just a court of first instance and after meeting with the elders and critical stakeholders of our great party, the APC, we directed our legal team to seek justice for Bayelsa at the Supreme Court.”

The governorship candidate assured the people of Bayelsa that the appella court would surely correct the travesty perpetrated by the tribunal.

He declared that the liberation of Bayelsa was close and appealed to them to remain positive, law-abiding and steadfast.

Before the judgement, Sylva had accused the tribunal of bias following several infractions observed by his lawyers during the hearing of the case.

He subsequently filed an interlocutory appeal demanding the dissolution of the panel and reconstitution of a new one.


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