Tribunal Upholds Election Of Governor Diri Of Bayelsa.

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By Goodluck Ikiebe in Abuja.


Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has affirmed the re-election of Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

The Justice Adekunle Adeleye-led three-member tribunal dismissed as lacking in merit, the petition brought before it by All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva.

In its unanimous decision, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to adduce any credible evidence to substantiate any of the allegations they raised against the outcome of the Bayelsa state governorship 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.

The tribunal held that 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 further held that such petition, must at the time it was filed, be accompanied with written statements of all the intended witnesses.

The tribunal also 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.”

The tribunal also dismissed the allegation that the Deputy Governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, tendered forged University Degree Certificate and NYSC Exemption Certificate, to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

It held that the allegation was a pre-election matter that ought to be 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 3rd 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.

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

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

The tribunal Chairman, Justice Adeleye, who read the lead judgement, further held that some of the allegations in the petition contained elements of criminality that ought to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The tribunal upheld preliminary objections the respondents filed to challenge the competence of the election.

Cited as respondents in the petition marked: EPT/BY/GOV/04/2023, were: INEC, governor Diri, his deputy, Ewhrujakpo and the PDP.

Our recalls that INEC had declared that Governor Diri of the PDP garnered 175, 196 votes to defeat his closest rival, Sylva of the APC who polled 110, 108 votes.

However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Sylva, who served as governor of the state from 2008 to 2012, and the immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, approached the tribunal, alleging that results of the election in three local government areas, LGAs, were wrongly excluded by INEC.

He told the tribunal that whereas election held in Southern Ijaw, Ogbia and Nembe LGAs, however, the electoral body voided polling unit results that were forwarded for collation.

Sylva insisted that contrary to INEC’s position that election did not hold in the affected LGAs, its officials supervised the election and sent results from the various polling units to the collation center.

According to him, had it been that results from the three LGAs, which he described as his strongholds, were included, he would have won the gubernatorial contest.

Arguing that Governor Diri did not secure the highest number of valid votes cast at the election, Sylva insisted that the election was invalid by reason of non compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act.

The petitioner also maintained his position that Governor Diri and his deputy were not qualified at the time the election was held.

He prayed the tribunal to invalidate the Certificate of Return that was issued to governor Diri by INEC.

While dismissing the petition, the tribunal held that it found no reason to set aside the result of the election as announced by INEC.

The tribunal expressed satisfaction with evidence from INEC that, election did not hold in the disputed LGAs.

It also held that the petitioners did not tender any Voter’s Register, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machine, or called witnesses to establish that results from the said LGAs were excluded during the collation process.

“The result declared by INEC enjoys presumption of regularity and a party desirous to challenge the result must do so with convincing and credible evidence.

“None presentation of BVAS machines and Voters Register used for accreditation in the election proved fatal to the case of the petitioners.

“I hold that the onus of proof of positive assertion that valid election took place in the disputed 184 polling units in 57 wards, rests on the petitioners.

“I also hold that the margin of lead principle is not applicable in this case as the petitioners made contradictory prayers.

“The petitioners, having failed to establish all the pleaded facts, I hold that this petition failed on all the three grounds that it was predicated upon.

“I hereby dismiss the petition as lacking in merit. Parties are to bear their respective costs,” the tribunal held.
Edited by Dawud Ahmed

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