Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday told the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Pettition Tribunal sitting in Abuja that the election that produced Governor Seriake Dickson was free, fair and was held in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
INEC stated this yesterday as it opened its defence in the petition brought by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Governor of the state, Timipre Sylva, challenging the emergence of Dickson at the polls as well as the credibility of the election.
APC and its governorship candidate, Sylva, are challenging the election of Governor Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the December 2015 and January 2016 governorship polls conducted in the state.
The petitioners are challenging the validity of the election over alleged widespread violence and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
Lead counsel to the electoral body, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), yesterday called two witnesses who testified to the credibility of the election.
One of the witnesses, Justine Adie, a civil servant who was the Electoral Officer in ekeremor Local Government Area of the state, said the January 9, 2016 was free, fair and in conformity with the electoral law.
He told the tribunal under cross examination by counsel to Governor Dickson, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that no report of violence was recorded during the election.
Adie added that the agents of various political parties including the APC signed the results of the election.
But under cross-examination by counsel to the petitioners, Chief Sabastine Hon (SAN), the witness said he did not visit all the 198 polling units in the Local Government Area.
He also admitted that the entries and signatories in the results sheets were not done in his presence.
Also testifying was, Alex Okorie, an Electoral Officer for Sagbama Local Government Area of the state who confirmed that the elections were credible.
However, Sylva’s lawyer, Sebastian Hon (SAN), urged the tribunal to discountenance arguments by the respondents which he said were not tenable.
He prayed the tribunal to dismiss the submissions, saying the premium placed on Paragraph 3 to the First Schedule to the Electoral Act was wrong.
In his ruling, the tribunal chairman, Justice Kazeem Aloba directed the respondents to file a formal objection against the petition and same would be tackled at the address stage.
Meanwhile, the petitioners have closed their case by calling a number of witnesses who testified there was no election on January 9, 2016 in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state due to widespread violence.
Counsel to the petitioners, Sabastine Hon [SAN] has led witnesses who insisted that there was no election in Southern Ijaw on January 9, 2016.