There is tension over yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment as INEC is yet to announce who will be sworn in as governor of Bayelsa as the outgoing chief executive, Seriake Dickson, rounds off his tenure today.
Lawyers and analysts said last night that unless INEC takes a firm decision, the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Monday Obolo may likely be sworn in today to fill the vacuum that will be created by the exit of Dickson.
This followed the confusion trailing the verdict of the Supreme Court on the November 16 governorship election in the state.
The apex court yesterday sacked the governor-elect, David Lyon and his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo who won under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and were billed to be sworn-in today.
With the sacking of the duo, the political party that got 25 per cent of the total votes cast in 2/3 of the local government areas of the state would produce the governor.
Now that all the votes scored by the APC have been nullified by the apex court, it was not clear last night as to whether the PDP will carry the day. There are eight local government areas in Bayelsa State and PDP and its candidate won conveniently in two of them.
Why APC candidate was removed
A five-member panel of justices of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili, in a unanimous judgment held that Degi-Eremienyo presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The panel held that the false information in Form CF 001submitted by Degi-Eremienyo to INEC for the purpose of the November governorship election in the state had infected the joint ticket with which he and Lyon contested the election and emerged victorious.
The lead judgment read by Justice Ejembi Eko upheld the November 12, 2019, judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja that disqualified Degi-Eremieoyo from participating in the governorship poll.
The apex court agreed with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Duoye Diri and his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhruojakpo that since Degi-Eremieoyo shared a joint ticket with the governor-elect, his disqualification invalidated their nomination by the APC.
The court ordered INEC to issue a fresh certificate of return to the candidate with the highest number of votes and the spread across the state.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the FCT High Court had ruled that the deputy governorship candidate’s information supplied in the INEC form had not been established “by any iota of credible evidence.”
He said the candidate presented his name and official documents and educational certificates to INEC and APC in different variations such as: Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, Degi Biobaragha, Degi Biobarakuma, Adegi Biobakumo and Degi-Eremienyo Biobarakuma Wangagha.
“The information is false in all material particular as none of the said documents have any nexus with the name of the 3rd defendant (Degi-Eremienyo) on the said Form CF001,” he said.
The judge ruled sections 6(6), 186 and 187(1) and (2) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), “the 3rd defendant stands disqualified from contesting the election.
What the law says
Section 187 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 provides that “a candidate for the office of governor of a state shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of governor, who is to occupy the office of deputy governor; and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of deputy governor if the candidate who nominated him is duly elected as governor in accordance with the said provisions.”
Ahmed Raji (SAN) said “If the PDP did not fulfill the requirement, there will be run-off election and the speaker will be sworn-in. Governor Dickson cannot continue because he would have served out his tenure.”
Hamid Ajibola Jimoh Esq said where none of the parties met the requirement of spread in at least two-third of the state; INEC would conduct a fresh election for only two candidates among the political parties within seven days. He cited Section 179 (2) (3)(4) and (5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999.
“For us as lawyers some of these cases provide for us to know whether our constitution would be amended,” Hamid said.
“There cannot be any vacuum in the state if the party with the second highest votes fails to meet the requirement. The speaker would take over only for seven days,” he added.
Reacting, Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq called for a new Electoral Act to “streamline our electoral jurisprudence for the better.”
He said for the country to survive the role of the courts’ interference in peoples’ choice of who holds elective office, adding that “This new trend of imposing unelected governors on the people is anti-democratic and confusing.”
Background to Bayelsa imbroglio
The Bayelsa governorship election had enjoyed its fair share of litigations since the primaries of the various political parties were conducted in September 2019.
While the Federal High Court in Abuja disqualified the APC deputy governorship candidate and the governorship candidate on November 12, 2019, the Court of Appeal in Abuja on November 14, 2019, in an application by Lyon, granted stay of execution of the judgment of the court.
Meanwhile, another Federal High Court in Yenagoa also ruled in the suit by the party’s governorship aspirant, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri that the primary which produced David Lyon was conducted outside the rules of the party.
But the Supreme Court on February 11, 2020 upheld the primary which produced Lyon on the ground that Lokpobiri’s appeal challenging the primary was filed outside the time provided by the law.
Obolo may be sworn in as acting governor
If by today, February 14, 2020 when Governor Dickson’s tenure ended and INEC did not issue certificate of return to PDP candidate on the grounds that may be he does not have the geographical spread, the governor will hand over to the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Monday Obolo.
Already, the speaker was spotted at the Bayelsa governor’s lodge yesterday while the people of the state were still waiting for the position of INEC on the judgement.
INEC yet to get court order on certificate of return
Breaking Times learnt last night that INEC was yet to receive the Supreme Court enrolled order to issue the Certificate of Return (CoR) to the qualified party and candidate after yesterday’s ruling by the apex court.
Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, told newsmen that the Commission was yet to receive copy of the judgment that would have given it the official directive of what to do specifically.
Breaking Times reports that the Commission’s chairman and national commissioners and other management team met till late hours last night for regular management meetings, but the meeting was extended for more period apparently due to the Bayelsa State judgment.
When asked if tomorrow may not be late for the issuance of the CoR and swearing in of a new governor-elect for the state, Oyekanmi said there would not be any problem as Friday could only elapse after 12am.
Nobody would be sworn-in – Oshiomhole
Reacting to the verdict, the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said yesterday that nobody would be sworn in as governor of Bayelsa state today. Addressing newsmen at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, he said, “From tomorrow (today), there will be no government in Bayelsa State because based on the court judgment, the next winner does not even have one quarter of the votes in two-third of the local governments so, which means, based on the constitution, no one can be sworn in as governor of Bayelsa State.
“Although, as a political party, we respect the rules of law and judgment and that is why we have asked our lawyers to explore all legal devices in making sure Bayelsans get their mandate.”
Comparing the Bayelsa’s case to that of Bauchi in 1999, Oshiomhole said, “The court found that his running mate was not qualified for whatever reason to contest that election, and accordingly the Supreme Court nullified the election of Governor Adamu Mu’azu and the court as a consequence directed INEC to conduct a fresh election.
“As bad as the case of Zamfara was, where after we have won the governorship election, the senatorial election, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly election, the court held that APC did not conduct primaries in Zamfara State and therefore did not participate in that election. This one is totally different, there is no doubt about the fact that proper elections were conducted,” he said.
PDP, Atiku congratulate Diri
Though, there was no clear directive that its candidate should be sworn in, the PDP has congratulated the people of Bayelsa state and Senator Douye Diri and his deputy governor candidate, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.
The PDP in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, however, insisted that the apex Court must “right the wrongs” in the Imo state governorship election judgment.
“Our party insists that the Supreme Court will be redeeming its image and restoring public confidence on its infallibility by reviewing the Imo verdict given the manifold unjustifiable mistakes contained in that judgment.
Similarly, the PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 general election, Atiku Abubakar, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Paul Ibe said, “Our party holds that a judicial review on Imo governorship election has become inevitable because by these earlier rulings of the Supreme Court, not only is Sen. Uzodimma not a candidate, the judgments also nullified all the votes that could have been accruable to APC and AA and their candidate, Uche Nwosu, in the election, leaving the PDP candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, as the incontestable winner of the election,” he said.
Outgoing Governor Dickson on his part yesterday urged the leaders and members of the APC to take the judgment in good faith and remain peaceful.
Dickson during a media chat at the Government House in Yenagoa, called on political parties to be calm and embrace peace.