Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State, on Tuesday, filed 11 grounds of appeal against Monday’s judgment of the state’s governorship election petition tribunal which sacked him from office.
The tribunal sitting in Abuja nullified Diri’s election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a fresh poll within 90 days..
The three-man tribunal, in a split decision of two-to-one, had the majority nullify the November 16, 2019 election as a result of the unlawful exclusion of the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party and its candidate, King George, from the exercise.
Two judges on the panel – Justices Yunusa Musa and Sikiru Owoduni – in upholding the petition filed by the ANDP, held that INEC lacked the power to exclude any party from an election.
But the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, in his dissenting judgment, dismissed ANDP’s petition.
Diri, through his lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), on Tuesday, filed a notice of appeal containing 11 grounds at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, contending that the judges who delivered the tribunal’s majority judgment erred in law.
He urged the court to set aside the majority judgment and affirm Justice Sirajo’s minority judgment of the tribunal.
The appellant contended among others that the tribunal erred in law when it held that ANDP’s petition was not statute-barred.
According to the appellant, the cause of action arose on November 16, 2019, being the election day from which ANDP claimed to have been excluded and the party had 21 days within which to file their petition but did not file the petition until more than five months after.
The governor’s lawyer maintained that the ANDP’s petition was statute-barred, in breach of the provisions of section 285(5) of the Nigerian Constitution.
He also argued that the tribunal erred in its majority judgment that ANDP’s candidates for the November 16, 2019 election were validly nominated.
He contended that INEC never rejected or disqualified the candidates of ANDP in its September 13, 2019 letter but merely informed the party that the nomination of its candidates “was invalid for the reason of their being underage and below the constitutional age threshold”.
He added that the decision of the tribunal “was in conflict with the evidence” of the party “voiced out through the highest organ” of the party that its deputy governorship candidate was not disqualified by INEC.
Uche also argued that the tribunal erred in law when it held in its majority judgment that ANDP possessed locus standi to file and maintain its petition.
He added that it erroneous for the tribunal to have held in the majority judgment that ANDP’s case is not a pre-election matter.
He argued that by virtue of section 285(14)(c) of the Constitution, the allegation of disqualification form an election constituted grounds for pre-election and not post-election cases.
The appellant urged the Court of Appeal, to “set aside the entire majority decision of the tribunal (per Hon. Justice Yunsa Musa and Hon. Justice S. M Owodunni) appealed against and to dismiss the 1st respondent’s petition”.
He also urged the court to “uphold the minority judgment of the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Hon. Justice Muhammed I. Sirajo which clearly appreciated the law and correctly applied the same to the facts, and rightly dismissed the petition”.
INEC had rejected the deputy governorship candidate of the party, David Esinkuma, for being 34 years old falling short of the 35 years stipulated as the constitutional minimum age that must be attained to contest for the office.
Diri who came second on November 16, 2020, governorship election was declared the elected governor of the state in a subsequent February 14, 2020, Supreme Court’s judgment which disqualified the All Progressives Congress’ candidate David Lyon who earlier emerged the winner of the poll.
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