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A’Court upholds Diri election, gov worries over endless cases

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday reversed the nullification of the November 16, 2019 governorship election that produced Duoye Diri as governor of Bayelsa State and affirmed his election.

The five-man panel in a unanimous judgment, delivered by Justice Obande Ogbuinya, held that the majority judgment of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal erred in law when it held that the petition of the Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) was not statute barred, according to a THISDAY report.

The tribunal had in a two-to-one judgment in August annulled the election of November 16, 2019 Governorship Election in Bayelsa State on the grounds of unlawful exclusion of the ANDP from the poll.

The tribunal consequently ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a fresh election that will include the ANDP and its governorship candidate within 90 days.

However, Diri approached the appellate court to set aside the majority judgment on the grounds that the majority judgment was flawed.

Delivering judgment in the appeal yesterday, the appellate court held that there was enough evidence to show that the case of the first respondent (ANDP) was statute barred because it was not filed within 14 days as prescribed by law.

Ogbuinya, in the judgment, agreed with the appellant that the case of the ANDP was a pre-election matter, which ought to be filed within 14 days but was filed five months after the cause of event.

Specifically, the court held that the cause of action of the ANDP arose on September 27, 2019, when INEC wrote the ANDP on the disqualification of its governorship candidate having not attained the age of 35 years as required by law, adding that the party ought to have approached a High Court to ventilate its anger 14 days from that date.

The judge said the ANDP, however, filed its petition at the Governorship tribunal in flagrant disobedience to section 285, adding that the tribunal is not a competent platform to institute such a pre-election case.

The appellate court further held that the documentary evidence used by INEC to disqualify the ANDP candidate on account of under-age was incorruptible because they were supplied by the candidate himself with an affidavit sworn to affirm the genuineness and authenticity of the supplied information.

In another ground of appeal, Justice Ogbuinya also agreed with the appellant that INEC has power to disqualify any candidate who does not meet the requirements for participating in an election.

According to the panel, INEC was right in excluding the ANDP from the November 16 governorship poll on grounds of its Deputy Governorship candidate, who was said to be under age at the time of the election.

Overall, Justice Ogbuinya held that the case of the appellant has merit and went ahead to set aside the majority judgment of the tribunal that annulled the November 16 governorship poll.

The Court of Appeal, in addition, affirmed the election of Diri as governor of Bayelsa State.

In another matter, the court dismissed the appeal filed by Mr. Ebizimo Diriyai, the candidate of the Accord Party, on the grounds that the allegation of certificate forgery brought against the Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, were not proved beyond reasonable doubt as required by law on criminal allegations.

Justice Folasade Ojo, who delivered the lead judgment agreed with Chukwuma Machukwu-Umeh, SAN, that the case of the Accord Party being a pre-election matter was statute barred and incompetent having been filed outside 14 days stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.

Justice Ojo also agreed with Machukwu-Umeh that the Accord Party and its governorship candidate made heavy weather in their certificate forgery allegations when in actual fact, the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) and the Department of State Service (DSS) have separately confirmed in the reports that mere correction was effected in the name of the deputy governor as contained in his Exemption Certificate.

The appellate court agreed that the allegations were weighty in nature as it could lead to automatic disqualification and also agreed that there was no scintilla of evidence to establish how a mere correction in the spelling of a name transformed into forgery.

The court therefore dismissed the appeal of the Accord Party and its governorship candidate in its entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

Also giving the same reason, the court dismissed the petition of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Liberation Movement (LM) alongside their governorship candidates.

Diri Attributes Victory to God

Meanwhile, Diri, in a press statement by his spokesman, Daniel Alabrah, applauded the decision of the five-man panel of Justices for upholding the law and dispensing justice to all.

He attributed his victory to God whom he referred to as the Supreme Leader of the universe ruling over the affairs of men.

Diri said: “I want to thank God for this victory. Today, a Daniel came to judgement in the name of the Court of Appeal, which has given the true position of the law and we are happy about it.”

But Diri bemoaned the litany of electoral cases trailing his election, describing them as distractions, and stated that it was time “portfolio political parties” stopped fanning the embers of disunity in the state.

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Ondo gov poll: Tribunal dismisses Jegede petition

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The Ondo Election Petitions Tribunal in Akure on Tuesday threw out the petition challenging the victory of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in last year’s governorship election for want of jurisdiction.

Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Eyitayo Jegede, had filed the petition seeking to be declared winner of the election on the grounds that Governor Akeredolu was not properly nominated by the All Progressives Congress.

Justice Abubakar Umar, who delivered the judgment, said Jegede had no justification to interfere in the internal affairs of the APC.

He said, “Issue raised therein in this petition are settled issue of internal affairs and Management of a political party which this Tribunal has no Jurisdiction.”

He dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.

The tribunal declared Akeredolu and his Deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, as duly elected in the October 10 governorship election.

Governor Akeredolu hailed Ondo residents for the confidence reposed in his administration and urged Jegede to join him in developing the state, saying there was no need for further litigation.

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Why northern governors opposed Jonathan’s second term bid – Babangida Aliyu

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Former governor of Niger State, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, has said northern governors rose against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid in 2015 because of the perceived threat of his victory to the North.

Aliyu said in Minna on Friday that the northern governors felt at the time that their part of the country stood in a disadvantaged position and would be shortchanged should Jonathan win a re-election.

He claimed that Jonathan had earlier reached an agreement with the north to complete what was left of the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and then run for only one term.

He said the ex-president’s insistence on going for another term in 2015 was against the agreement he had with the northern governors.

“Following the sudden passage of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010, the leadership of the then governing Peoples Democratic Party along with the state governors under the flagship of the party had series of meetings on the presidency and the future of our great party,” he said.

The ex-governor also said, “All the governors in the North under the PDP supported the then Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to complete the remaining years of Yar’Adua’s tenure and to contest the next presidential election as a sole candidate of our great party.

“However, midway, President Goodluck Jonathan insisted to run for the office in 2015 against the grain of our earlier agreement.

“Since this was against the grain of our earlier agreement in the party, and which we the governors in the north felt the North would have been shortchanged if Jonathan had succeeded, we rose stoutly to insist on the agreement we all had.

“On that premise, we opposed Jonathan. But all along, Goodluck Jonathan had enjoyed every support from the governors in the north and the entire region.”

The former governor said it was wrong for anyone to say that he opposed Goodluck Jonathan.

He added that as the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum then, it was his responsibility to tell the people about the stand of the governors.

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Makinde’s candidate, Arapaja, emerges PDP South-West chairman

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Former Oyo State Deputy Governor, Taofeek Arapaja, has been declared the South-West chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He was pronounced winner of the hotly contested poll by chairman of the region’s congress and Benue Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu.

Arapaja, backed by Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, polled 343 votes to defeat Dr Eddy Olafeso, who scored 330.

Olafeso is of the camp of former Ekiti Governor Ago Fayose.

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