By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Abuja has reserved judgment on a petition by the governorship candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM), Mr. Vijah Opuama, challenging the eligibility of the state deputy governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo in the last November election in the state.
The Justice Ibrahim Sirajo-led three-member tribunal reserved judgment on a later date, which will be communicated to the parties in the matter, after parties adopted their final written address.
The petitioner, Opuama contended that there were discrepancies in the name of the deputy governor on his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate.
Testifying as a subpoenaed witness, the Deputy governor in his defence, explained that there was an error in his NYSC exemption certificate, which he claimed was the fault of NYSC, and that it was corrected when he applied to corps on noticing the error.
He also informed the tribunal that he cannot be sued owing to the fact that the law does not allow him to institute a legal action in an electoral dispute.
While adopting his final written address to the tribunal filed by his counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), the deputy governor contended that “Section 137 (1) (A) and (B) clearly specified that only a candidate in an election and a political party which participated in the election can lodge a petition,” adding that Sub-section (2) states that a “person whose election is complained of is: in this Act, referred to as the respondent.”
He also insisted that the suit 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.
He, therefore, argued that the Electoral Act does not allow him to institute an election petition and as such he cannot be sued in that regard.
He posited that Electoral Act 2010 as amended, stipulated that “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.”
He urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit as it was statute-barred.
After listening to the arguments of counsel to parties in the petition, the tribunal adjourned for judgement to a later date.