•Verdicts threaten Lyon’s inauguration Friday
Anxiety has gripped politicians in Bayelsa State as the Supreme Court will today and Thursday deliver judgments on who will be sworn in as the governor of the state on Friday.
On the two days, the apex court will finally settle the disputes arising from the governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose candidate, Mr. David Lyon, is billed to take his oath of office on Friday.
The disputes predated the governorship election in the state in which Lyon trounced the candidate of the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Federal High Court in Yenagoa had on November 14, 2019, nullified Lyon’s candidacy and ruled out APC from the contest.
Justice Jane Inyang gave the order in a judgment in a case filed by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, who was one of the APC governorship aspirants.
Lokpobiri, a former Minister of State for Agriculture, had approached the court, asking it to declare him, and not Lyon as the authentic candidate of the APC.
But Lokpobiri’s lawyer, Mr. Fitzgerald Olorogun, said the court ruling was not part of their prayers.
“The court pronounced that the governorship primary conducted by the APC in Bayelsa State was not done in compliance with the guidelines and the constitution of the party, and therefore, the party has no candidate,” Olorogun had told reporters immediately after the court ruling, adding: “It’s strange.”
However, the Court of Appeal, sitting in Port Harcourt, last month upturned the Federal High Court’s decision, declaring that the APC had a candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election.
Delivering judgment on Lyon’s appeal at the Court of Appeal, the presiding justice, Justice Isaiah Olufemi Akeju, ruled that the suit before the Federal High Court, which was filed on October 18, 2019, was statute-barred, considering the fact that election matters are time-bound.
Not satisfied with the Appeal Court’s ruling, Lokpobri had approached the apex court, seeking to set aside the decision.
The Supreme Court is billed to deliver judgment in Lokpobri’s appeal today.
Also on Thursday, the Supreme Court will also be giving judgment in the case filed by the PDP challenging the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the candidacy of the deputy governor-elect of Bayelsa State, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo, in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state.
The appellate court had set aside a November 12, 2019 verdict of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, disqualifying Degi-Eremieoyo as the APC’s deputy governorship candidate in the poll.
Justice Ekwo had in his judgment held that Degi-Eremieoyo gave false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about his academic qualification allegedly evidenced by the discrepancies in the names contained in his credentials.
Degi-Eremieoyo had appealed against the judgment of the Federal High Court.
But a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Stephen Adah, had held that the Federal High Court judge erred in his decision disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate.
“The appeal has merit and it is hereby allowed. The judgment of the lower court delivered on November 12 is hereby set aside. Order is hereby made dismissing the suit of the respondents,” Justice Rilwan Abdullahi who read the appellate court’s lead judgment had held.
The Court of Appeal held that there were no enough grounds for the Federal High Court to rule the way it did, adding that the allegation that Degi-Eremieoyo gave false information to INEC was not proved as required.
It faulted the lower court’s reliance on Section 31(5 and 6) of the Electoral Act in disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate.
The court added that the allegations against Degi-Eremieoyo were criminal, which required proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justice Abdullahi ruled that the PDP and its governorship candidate in the election, Douye Diri and Lawrence Ewhruojakpo, who are the plaintiffs at the lower court and respondents at the Court of Appeal, failed to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt.
He held that the different names contained in the appellant’s Form CF 001, his First School Leaving Certificate and General Certificate of Education belonged to the same person, going by the supporting affidavit of change of name and newspaper publication.
The appellate court set aside the Federal High Court’s judgment and awarded N500,000 cost against the respondents in favour of the appellants.
Dissatisfied by the decision of the Court of Appeal, the PDP had headed for the Supreme Court to reverse the judgment.
THISDAY gathered that if the APC loses in the Lokpobri case today, it may be deemed that the party had no candidate in the election.
If the party’s candidate is disqualified, the party with the second-highest number of votes, which is the PDP, may be declared the winner, it was learnt.
But a chieftain of APC in the state told THISDAY that there is no way the party will lose in Lokpobiri’s case, no matter the decision of the apex court.
“What Lokpobiri is asking for is to be declared the winner of the primary election. If the Supreme Court rules in his favour, APC is still the winner and if Lyon wins, it is still APC,” he said.
He, however, acknowledged that if the party loses the case filed by the PDP on Thursday, Senator Douye Diri of the PDP will be automatically sworn-in on Friday as the governor.
“The case of PDP is different because it is a joint ticket. If the court disqualifies APC’s deputy governorship candidate, it means the governor-elect is disqualified because it is a joint ticket,” he added.
THISDAY gathered that tension has enveloped the state as none of the parties knows how the pendulum will swing.