From Isaac Money, Yenagoa
There was palpable tension in the oil rich but underdevelopment state of Bayelsa in the Niger Delta of Nigeria following conclusion of the tribunal looking into petitions of the 2019 Guber race in the state.
The three man election petition tribunal siting in Abuja and headed by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo concluded the hearing and reserved its judgement on the petition seeking to sack Governor Douye Diri and his Deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.
The governorship candidate of Liberation Movement ( LM) party in Bayelsa state, Mr. Vijah Opuama had in the petition he filed to the tribunal had alleged that the current Deputy governor of the state , Lawrence Ewrudjakpo allegedly gave false information in the Form CF001 he tendered to INEC for the purpose of the governorship election that held in the state November 16, 2019.
Vidjah who specifically challenged the authenticity of Ewhrudjakpo’s National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Exemption Certificate allegedly issued in 1998 prayed the tribunal to disqualify governor Diri and his Deputy , Ewhrudjakpo and the political party they belong, the PDP, and order for a fresh election without the disqualified party
Cited as respondents in the petition are INEC, the PDP, governor Diri and Senator Ewrudjakpo.
The Justice Ibrahim Sirajo-led three-member panel tribunal reserved the case for judgement after all the parties adopted their final briefs of argument.
Meanwhile, in his final written address that was adopted by his lawyer, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, Bayelsa deputy governor, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition he argued was bereft of merit.
He further contended that section 137 (1) (a) and (b) of the Electoral Act, clearly specified that only a candidate in an election and a political party which participated in the election, could lodge a petition to challenge the outcome of such election.
He noted that sub-section (2) of the provision stipulated that “a person whose election is complained of is, in this Act, referred to as the respondent.”
Ewhrudjakpo, therefore, argued that the Electoral Act does not allow him to institute an election petition and as such he could not also be sued in that regard.
The Bayelsa deputy governor likened his case to that of an underaged person who can neither vote nor be voted for in an election.
Besides, his lawyer drew the attention of the tribunal to the grounds of the petitioners’ suit which border on the credentials of the deputy governor, arguing that it is a pre-election and therefore statute-barred going by the provisions of Section 31 Paragraph (1), (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
Quoting copiously from the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, Ume, said, “Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the Federal High Court, High Court of State or FCT against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.
“If the court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit of any document submitted by that candidate is false, the court shall issue an order disqualifying him from contesting the election.”