…Judge gives dissecting judgement
By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Bayelsa State, Governorship Election Tribunal, yesterday, in a dissecting judgement, nullified the election of the Governor of the state, Duoye Diri in the November 16, 2019 governorship election.
The three-man justices of the panel, led by Mohammed Sirajo, nullified the election and ordered for fresh election within 90days.
The panel maintained that the election was unlawful due to the exclusion of Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP)and its candidate, King George, from the said election.
ANDP had in a petition it lodged before the tribunal, contended that it was unlawfully excluded from participating in the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) despite the fact that it fulfilled all the statutory requirements.
Justices Sukiri Owodumi and Yunusa Musa, in their majority judgement, agreed that INEC illegally excluded ANDP and its governorship candidate, King George, from the election.
However, in a dissecting judgement, the chairman of the panel, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, distanced himself from majority judgement.
Justice Sirajo, said there was evidence that ANDP was disqualified from the election for fielding an ineligible candidate.
He noted that the party nominated an underaged deputy governorship candidate, who admitted that he was 34 years old, instead of the 35 years age bracket the Constitution stipulated.
Justice Sirajo said there was evidence that the party failed to substitute the candidate till the statutory window for such substitution elapsed.
The judge also maintained that the matter before the tribunal was a pre-election case since INEC’s decision that disqualified its candidates occurred before the actual election held on November 16, 2019.
He held that the matter has became status-barred as it was filed not within 14 days after it got notification from INEC according to Section 285(9) of the 1999 constitution.
He, therefore, held that the disqualification of ANDP by INEC was not unconstitutional because it nominated an underaged candidate.
Speaking shortly after the judgement, counsel to the governor, Chris Uche SAN said that the governor is still strongly on seat until all legal avenue are exhausted.