• Embattled ex-governor to appeal to Supreme Court
•Dickson hails judgment
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, challenging the declaration of Governor Seriake Dickson as the winner of the election.
The court, in a unanimous judgment held that Dickson was validly elected as governor of the state.
A five-man panel with Justice Jimmi Olukayode Bada presiding, resolved all the five issues raised by Sylva and his party in favour of Dickson and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Justice Bada who delivered the lead judgment, held that Sylva and his party failed to prove the allegations of corruption, non-compliance, gross violation of the electoral act and other malpractices in the conduct of the election.
He held that the foundation upon which the appellants based their case: that the December 6, 2015 election was unilaterally cancelled by the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) had collapsed since they participated actively in the rescheduled election of January 9, 2016.
He further held that it was established beyond doubt that the decision to shift December 6, 2015, election to January 9, 2016, was taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and stakeholders.
His lordship held that the burden of proof rest on the appellants who would lose if no adequate evidence was not placed before the court to prove the allegations contained in their petition.
He held that: “The contention of the appellants has no merit. They were expected to lead evidence to prove their claim that the election was marred by irregularities, electoral malpractices, allocation of votes and gross violation of Electoral Act. These allegations were not proved by the appellants.
“Am in total agreement with the judgment of the lower tribunal because the decision was based on the evidence placed before it.”
He added that the tribunal was right in upholding Dickson’s election having resolved all the five issues raised by the appellants in favour of the respondents.
Justice Bala dismissed the petition in its entirety for lacking in merit.
Sylva and APC had challenged the election of Dickson at the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on the grounds that the governor was not lawfully returned through as the winner of the election.
But in a unanimous decision, the three-man tribunal led by Justice Kazeem Aloba, the tribunal held that the APC failed to prove its case.
The tribunal held that the election held in Southen Ijaw Local Government Area on January 9, 2016, was lawful and valid in law.
It further held that from the evidence adduced before it, the election of December 6, 2015 was inconclusive and was rightfully rescheduled by INEC through the REC.
It also held that contrary to the position of the petitioner, election took place in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.
Fielding questions from journalists shortly after the judgment was delivered, counsel to Sylva, Daniel Nwoko said the judgment of the appeal court would be tested at the Supreme Court because there were aspects of the judgment that needed clarification.
But counsel to Dickson, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) lauded the judgment and praised the justices for the industry put in the judgment.
On his part, Dickson hailed the judgment.
While commending the judiciary for “asserting its independence and steadfastness in protecting the sanctity of the ballot,” the governor noted that the court remains the bastion of the nation’s democracy.
Dickson, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, called on Sylva “to stop the flagrant abuse of the judicial process and the needless distractions designed at overheating the polity.”
He noted that the judgment indicated that the resolve of the people did not go in vain and called for greater vigilance to protect democracy in the country.