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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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Wike, BoT meeting inconclusive as Atiku flags off campaign Oct 10

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Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

• Rivers gov pledges commitment to peace

• NWC in marathon meeting over party crisis

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APC rally: Scores injured as Auxiliary allegedly attacks Tinubu, Folarin supporters in Ibadan

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•Nothing of such happened—PMS

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PDP Housing allowance’s crisis takes new twist

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PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu

The last is yet to be heard about the refund of over N150 million housing allowance by six members of the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Staff of the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, on Tuesday, rejected copies of the widely publicized letters returning various sums ranging from N28.8 million to N36 million representing three years of housing allowances of NWC members.

Vanguard gathered that the letters written by the Deputy National Chairman (South) Taofeek Arapaja; National Vice Chairman (South South), Chief Dan Orbih; National Vice Chairman (South West) and National Women Leader, Prof. Stella Affah-Attoe, last week were only taken to the National Chairman’s office this morning.

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In their separate letters, the party officers returned the various sums arguing that the payments were suspicious. While Arapaja got N36 million of the said money transferred into his bank account, the three others got N28.8 million each.

A source in the party’s National Secretariat who confided in Vanguard said, “Arapaja and the National Woman’s leader’s letters in which they said they were returning their housing allowance which they shared on social media last week was just brought to the office this morning (Tuesday).

“Arapaja’s letter which was written on PDP letterhead was sent via courier. The man is still here.

“That’s what he could have sent through his secretary if mischief was not intended

“They had lied that they submitted their letters to the chairman. It’s today they are struggling to.

“How can the Chairman receive letters from his colleagues via courier?”

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