Appeal Court Rejects Suit to Set aside Lyon’s Election

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Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

A Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt , River State, yesterday dismissed a suit seeking to nullify the election of Bayelsa’s governor-elect, Chief David Lyon.

The three-man panel declared that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state contrary to the decision of a Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa.

The Presiding Justice, Justice Olufemi Akeju delivered the lead judgment in Port Harcourt yesterday, ruling that the suit before the trial court, was statute-barred, considering the fact that election matters are time bound.

The trial court had declared that the APC had no candidate in the election ruling on a suit an APC governorship aspirant, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri filed challenging the outcome of the party’s primaries in the state.

In its decision yesterday, however, the appellate court said: “Election matters unlike civil matters are time bound. First respondent’s action, which was filed on October 18, is statute-barred and stands struck out.

“The Federal High Court judgement stands on nothing. The appeal succeeds. You cannot put something on nothing,” the presiding judge ruled.

In her judgement, Hon. Justice Cordelia Jombo-Ofo declared that the suit was determined without due process and therefore could not stand.

Jombo-Ofo said the court action instituted at the lower court was determined without due process, noting that the judgement of the lower court could not stand.

She, however, declared that the undertaking written by Lokpobiri and other governorship aspirants “not to challenge the outcome of the primaries cannot stand, as the constitution of a political party, association or group, cannot be superior to the country’s constitution.”

Jombo-Ofo said the lower court was right when it said the undertaking could not prevent the respondent from exercising his right by seeking redress in court.

She declared that the two appeals “emanated from the suit in Federal High Court and we have stated that the suit was statute- barred.

“The lower court stood on a quick stand by entertaining a matter that was filed out of time. We hereby strike out the lower court suit and judgment. The appeal is hereby allowed.”

On his part, Hon. Justice Abubakar Muazu Lamido declared that the reliefs granted by the Federal High Court to Lokpobiri were not sought for.

Speaking to newsmen later, counsel to Lokpobiri, Fitzgerald Olorogun, said they would challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court.

He said: “What happened was that the court said the action was filed out of the time prescribed by the Constitution. Therefore, the court refused to entertain it.

“All of us agreed that the lower court made errors when it nullified the entire primaries. The matters are serious matters and we will approach the Supreme Court.”

Addressing journalists also, counsel to the APC, Sydney Ibanichuka, expressed joy that the Court of Appeal in its wisdom addressed all issues raised by the appellants.

Ibanichuka said the appellate court “has in its wisdom addressed issues raised by appellants in this matter. The matter at the lower court was accordingly struck out.”