Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court yesterday cleared one of the legal impediments to the inauguration of Bayelsa State Governor-elect, Mr. David Lyon, on Friday as it affirmed his nomination as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last election in the state.
The court, in a unanimous decision, dismissed an appeal filed by a governorship aspirant of the APC, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, challenging the nomination of Lyon as the APC candidate in the November 16 governorship poll.
The court, in the lead judgment delivered by Justice John Okoro, held that Lokpobiri failed to file his suit within the mandatory 14 days stipulated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Justice Okoro stated that the provisions of Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution was categorical and emphatic that all political cases must be instituted within a 14-day time frame.
The apex court disagreed with the appellant that the cause of action arose from September 7, 2019 when Lyon’s name was submitted by the APC to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the party’s candidate, adding that the cause of action actually arose from September 4, 2019 when the result of the primary election was declared by the party.
The Federal High Court in Yenagoa had on November 14, 2019, nullified Lyon’s candidacy and ruled out the APC from the contest.
Justice Jane Inyang gave the order in a judgment in a case filed by Lokpobiri.
Lokpobiri, a former Minister of State for Agriculture, had approached the court for a declaration that he, and not Lyon, should be 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 governorship election.
Delivering judgment in 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.
Lokpobiri had prayed the apex court to void the decisions of both the trial court and the appellate court and uphold his request to be declare the APC’s candidate .
He averred that the two lower courts erred in law when they held that he ought to have filed his grievances from the date the result of the primary election was announced and not from the date his opponent’s name was submitted to INEC.
Lokpobiri claimed he won the primary election in five out of the eight local government areas in the state with a wide margin and that Lyon was illegally and unlawfully declared by APC as winner.
However, the apex court in the final judgment held that Lokpobiri’s case was irredeemably bad because it violated section 285(9) of the constitution, having been filed outside the 14 days allowed by law.
The court held that where the provision of a law is so specific as in the time frame to file a pre-election matter, the general provision must give way, adding the provision of section 285(9) does not envisage any elongation.
“The issue is resolved against the appellant. The appeal lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Okoro held.
Also tomorrow, the Supreme Court will be giving judgment in the case filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (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 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 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 and a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Stephen Adah, held that the Federal High Court judge erred in his decision disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate.