- INEC to rework poll results to determine replacement
- Ruling party rejects verdict, says no gov in Bayelsa
- Opposition party welcomes judgment, insists on Imo
Chuks Okocha, Alex Enumah, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Supreme Court yesterday dashed the hope of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to take over power in Bayelsa State as it annulled the party’s victory in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state.
The nullification of the party’s victory set the stage for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in power in the state since 1999, to retain its stronghold.
In a judgment delivered on the eve of the inauguration of the Governor-elect, Mr. David Lyon, who was already rehearsing for his takeover of power today, the Supreme Court held that APC ought not to have participated in the election in the first place owing to the non-qualification of its running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Mary Peter Odili, ruled that the joint ticket of Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo was vitiated by the disqualification of the running mate, who is the first respondent in the appeal.
The apex court ordered that the party with the next highest number of votes and geographical spread be issued with certificate of return as the duly winner of the governorship poll.
However, the Supreme Court’s order that the next party that met the electoral requirements be declared winner of the governorship election, triggered confusion over who will today succeed Hon. Seriake Dickson as governor.
The APC, which rejected the verdict, opposed any bid to declare PDP winner, saying that the party did not have enough spread of votes in the eight local government areas in Bayelsa State for its candidate, Senator Douye Diri, to step in.
Expectedly, the PDP lauded the judgment, but insisted on the Supreme Court revisiting its January 14, 2020 verdict that nullified the election of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which as at last night was awaiting the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment said it would have to rework the election results to determine the winner, adding that with the Supreme Court verdict, all votes for the APC are null and void.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko in the appeal filed by the .PDP challenging the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the candidacy of Degi-Eremienyo in the last governorship election in the state, the Supreme Court held:
• That this appeal be and is hereby allowed;
• That the judgment of the lower court delivered on the 23rd of December, 2019 be and is hereby set aside;
•That the judgment of the trial court delivered on the 12th day of November, 2019 including all the orders made therein, be and is hereby reinstated;
•That the joint ticket of the 1st and 2nd respondents sponsored by the 3rd respondent was vitiated by the disqualification of the 1st respondent;
• That both candidates disqualified be and are hereby deemed not to be candidates at the governorship election conducted in Bayelsa State;
•That INEC (the 4th respondent herein) declare as winner of the governorship election in Bayelsa State the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional (or geographical) spread;
•That the 4th respondent (INEC) shall withdraw the certificate of return issued to the 2nd and 1st respondents and issue certificate of return to the candidate who had the highest number of lawful votes cast in the governorship election and who also had the requisite constitution (of geographical spread);
•That the parties bear their respective costs; and
•That by consent of all counsel, Appeal SC. 2/2020 shall abide the outcome of this Appeal No. SC.1/2020.
INEC had declared APC and Lyon as winner of the Bayelsa governorship poll having won majority of the votes cast in the election.
The Supreme Court held that contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal, there is available evidence of forgery against the first respondent.
Degi-Eremienyo had submitted certificates bearing different names to the INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election.
Documents submitted to INEC included his primary school leaving certificate, General Certificate of Education (GCE), first degree, NYSC discharge certificate and Master’s degree certificate, but they all bear different names.
However, the Supreme Court said its findings proved that there was no nexus between the names in the certificates Degi-Eremienyo presented to INEC and the names in his submitted Form CF 001.
Having established a case of guilty against the Degi-Eremienyo, the court nullified his election and that of Lyon on the grounds that whatever happens to one affects the order, and by implications both go down together.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court had earlier voided the participation of the APC in the governorship election on the grounds of forgery by Degi-Eremienyo but his decision was set aside by the Court of Appeal.
Justice Ekwo had in his judgment held that Degi-Eremienyo gave false information to INEC about his academic qualifications as evidenced by the discrepancies in the names contained in his credentials.
Degi-Eremienyo 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, had held that the Federal High Court judge erred in his decision disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate and set aside the verdict of the lower court.
But the Supreme Court said the primary school certificate obtained in 1976, GCE, obtained in1984 as well as the first degree (1990) and others were products of forgery and that Degi-Eremienyo violated Section 182 of the 1999 Constitution.
However, in deciding who takes over from Dickson today, INEC said it would have to revise the election results since the votes of the APC had been voided by the Supreme Court.
APC polled 352,552 votes in the election to defeat PDP, which polled 143,172 votes.
The total number of registered voters was announced as 922,562 and the number of accredited voters was put at 517,883.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Sebastine Hon, told THISDAY yesterday that for the PDP to benefit from the Supreme Court judgment, the party must have scored at least 25 per cent of votes cast in two-thirds of the local government areas in the state.
THISDAY gathered that with APC on the ballot, it would be difficult for the PDP to achieve the 25 per cent spread.
But with the Supreme Court judgment, which voided the APC votes, the number of valid voters has dropped from 517,883 to 165,331 since 352,552 scored by APC have been voided.
THISDAY learnt that with these results, PDP, having scored 143,173 votes out of a total of 165,331 valid votes, has achieved the 25 per cent threshold in two-thirds of the eight LGAs.
INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, told THISDAY that the electoral body was waiting for the judgment to reconstitute the results.
He said: “If a political party and its candidate are not qualified to be on the ballot, the implication is that the votes cast or scored by that party are wasted votes. In the calculation of majority votes and spread, the commission will discountenance those votes and recalculate geographical spread based on the new formula.”
He reiterated that INEC and the courts are the only organs of government constitutionally and legally empowered to make a determination on whether a candidate or political party scored majority of lawful votes and met the requisite spread.
APC Kicks as PDP, Atiku, Okowa Hail Judgment
Meanwhile, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, have hailed the verdict of the apex court.
Atiku, in his verified tweeter, expressed gladness over the Supreme Court verdict and felicitated with the PDP for the victory of Diri at the Supreme Court, stating that God has given the PDP the opportunity to prove that power belongs to the people.
On his part, Okowa, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, described the ruling as a welcomed development for the PDP and its candidates.
He stated that his confidence in the judiciary had been rekindled by the ruling of the apex court.
In its reaction, APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, rejected the judgment and said the party would challenge it.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Oshiomhole said it was clear that no candidate had the constitutional spread, unless there is a deliberate attempt to abuse the legal process.
He added that nobody has raised issues about whether or not Lyon and his running mate won overwhelming majority in the said election.
“This judgment lacks the fruit of justice. When justice is sacrificed on the altar of technicalities, it constitutes a great danger. Let me also say that it is not a state secret, if as the Supreme Court has ruled, David Lyon cannot now be sworn in as the person who has the highest number of votes and the spread to be sworn in. It simply means from tomorrow (today) there will be no government in Bayelsa State.”
But the PDP described the comments by Oshiomhole as an empty and inconsequential ranting.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, however, warned Oshiomhole to steer clear of Bayelsa State as his apparent plots to trigger violence in the state has failed.
It warned Oshiomhole to be careful with his utterances so as not to incite people to violence.
The PDP also congratulated Diri and his running mate, Lawrence Ewrujakpor, saying their mandate has been restored.
It, however, added that the Bayelsa judgment will not change its demand that the Supreme Court should revisit its judgment on the Imo State governorship election.
On his part, Dickson warned that no resident should take the laws into their hands while celebrating or protesting the judicial decision.
While stressing that neither he nor Diri should take credit for the event, the governor said he held no grudges against any anybody irrespective of their positions on the issue.
He urged the people of the state to do away with the politics of bitterness, adding that restraint should be the watchword for everyone concerned.
A senior lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), however, said the judgment, including the ones delivered by the apex court on Zamfara and Imo States, constitute serious indictment of INEC and political parties.
Adegboruwa added that Nigerians must avoid situations whereby leaders emerge through the courts, as that will be circumventing the will of the people.
Call Oshiomhole to Order, Wike Tells FG
However, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, called on the Federal Government to warn the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole to stop making inflammatory remarks capable of destabilising the country.
Wike also berated the APC National Chairman for saying that there will be no swearing-in of the PDP Candidate in Bayelsa State, saying he has no such powers.
He said: “The federal government should warn Oshiomhole to stop making remarks that will destabilise Nigeria.
“What he is doing in Edo State is not proper and he should not bring it to the rest of the Niger Delta.”
He said that Oshiomhole lacks the power to make pronouncements after the Supreme Court has ruled on the Bayelsa matter.
“Who is Oshiomhole to determine who has spread in a state? Supreme Court has made a ruling. It is unfortunate for Oshiomhole to come forward to say that nobody will be sworn in ” he said.