By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reserved till a later date, judgments in six appeals filed against the judgments of the Bayelsa State Governorship election tribunal delivered on June 15 and 17 2020 in relation to the outcome of the last governorship election in the state.
In one of its decisions on June 17, 2020, the tribunal, in a split judgment of two-to-one, upheld the petition by the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) and sacked Governor Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
After hearing the appeals on Thursday, a five-man panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Adzira Gana Mshella, said the court would inform parties of the date of the delivery of judgments.
Seven appeals were originally slated for hearing on Thursday, the court had to adjourn hearing till September 25, 2020 in the one filed by Barrister Ebizimo Diriyau (of Accord Party), marked: CA/ABJ/PT/GOV/749/2020, on realising that hearing notice was not served on the lawyer to the first respondent (the Independent National Electoral Commission).
The appeals heard included those filed by Diri (CA/ABJ/PT/GOV/703/2020; the PDP (CA/ABJ/PT/GOV/704/2020); INEC (CA/ABJ/PT/GOV/705/2020; Ibiene Stephen (CA/ABJ/PT/GOV/745/2020); Owei Tongu Woniwei (CA/ABJ/PT/GOV/746/2020); and Vijah Elder Opuama (CA/ABJ/PT/GOV/747/2020).
Diri, the PDP and INEC, in their appeals, want the court to set aside the majority judgment of the election tribunal, which sacked Diri and uphold the minority decision.
Diri’s lead lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN) argued that the case of the first respondent (ANDP) was statute barred as at the time it was filed.
Uche 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 noted 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 the Constitution.
Arguing PDP’s appeal, Yunus Ustaz (SAN) drew the court’s attention to an affidavit deposed to by ANDP’s National Chairman, where he admitted that the party had no candidate 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 arguing INEC’s appeal, Ibrahim Bawa, (SAN) informed th court that the alteration done to Section 285 of the 1999 constitution has restored INEC’s power to screen and disqualify any candidate wrongly nominated by a political party.
Bawa urged the appellate court to affirm the constitutional provisions of INEC to disqualify candidate in an election.
Responding, ANDP’e lead lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) urged the court to uphold the majority decision of the tribunal which nullified the November 16 governorship election and ordered a fresh one.
Ogunwumiju stated that the 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.