Sylva Calls for Calm, Apologises to Buhari over APC’s Loss of Bayelsa

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Timipre Sylva

•Seeks end to violent protests

Ejiofor Alike

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, has called for calm and restraint over the nullification of the election of the All Progressives Congress (APC)  governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, Mr. David Lyon, by the Supreme Court and the swearing in of Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor.

In a statement he personally signed, Sylva, who is the state leader of the party and a former governor of the state, also apologised to President Muhammadu Buhari for the disruption of his earlier scheduled visit to the state to witness the inauguration of Lyon as governor before the Supreme Court judgment.

The Supreme Court last Thursday had voided the election of Lyon, on the eve of his inauguration, over the qualification of his running mate and deputy governor-elect, Mr. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo. The court said Lyon’s running mate presented false information and was, therefore, not eligible to run.

The apex court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue the political party and candidate with the second highest votes a certificate of return.

The PDP’s Diri, who came second in the election,  received the certificate of return on February 14 and was sworn in same day.

The Supreme Court judgment triggered a wave of protests and arsons by APC supporters who  lit bonfires on major streets of Yenagoa, the state capital, and allegedly torched the homes of Diri and his predecessor, Hon. Seriake Dickson.

In his first statement since the Supreme Court aborted the dream of APC to take over Bayelsa, which has been PDP’s stronghold since 1999, Sylva urged the residents of the state to “shun all acts of violence and lawlessness.”

In apologising to Buhari, he said: “Also of great importance to me is to extend my profound apology to our President, HE (His Excellency) Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, over the avoidable disruption to his busy schedule, which was caused by the events of the moment. I am aware that Mr. President and his lovely wife, HE Aisha Buhari, had concluded arrangements to travel to Bayelsa to witness the inauguration of the APC governorship candidate as governor of Bayelsa State. I, therefore extend my apology to Mr. President and members of his entourage.”

Sylva asked the people of Bayelsa State to apply “restraint at all times,” adding that even though “the events of the last few days are as painful as they are regrettable, however tempting it might be for anyone to take the law into their hands, such temptation must be resisted in the greater interest of our state and the political stability of the country at large.”

He said the APC leadership had directed its team of legal experts to “study the situation critically and proffer legal options available to the party accordingly.”

“We should therefore all remain faithful to, and have confidence in, the wisdom and ability of the party leadership to provide direction at this very sensitive time,” he added.

The minister urged the people, “irrespective of whatever differences there may be to eschew violence and respect the security measures put in place by appropriate authorities.”

He gave assurance that “despite this temporary setback, APC in Bayelsa remains strong and its members resolute in our support for the ideals of a greater and prosperous Nigeria as envisioned by President Buhari.”

Following the violence that greeted the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Bayelsa Police Command had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state.

The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Usher Anozie, while briefing journalists on Friday in Yenagoa, had said the curfew was from 8 p.m to 6a.m., and from Friday to Sunday (yesterday).

“We are to brief on what happened today, where angry politicians stormed the streets of Yenagoa which went violent.

“The police have arrested about eight suspects in connection with the protest.

“In this process, the command has imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state from 8p.m. to 6a.m.

“Members of the public should stay in their houses because the command is ready to arrest anybody. Avoid anything that can cause the breakdown of law,” he had said.

APC Writes INEC, Demands Fresh Governorship Election in Bayelsa

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has demanded a fresh election in Bayelsa State.

The party said the swearing-in of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (APC) as governor was unconstitutional as he did not meet the mandatory constitutional requirement.

The National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, in a letter of appeal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), affirmed the supremacy of the Supreme Court nullification of its governorship candidate’s victory, but argued that the sworn-in candidate, Duoye Diri, also failed to meet the mandatory requirement to become the governor.

The letter, which was forwarded to the national chairman of INEC, was titled, ‘Judgement in Appeal No: SC.1/2020 between Peoples Democratic Party Request for conduct of fresh governorship election in Bayelsa State’.

It said the court judgment did not void the votes that the APC polled at the election and the implication of this is that the votes of the party must be reckoned with.

‘’Kindly recall that the governorship election in Bayelsa State was conducted on  November 16, 2019 and our great party, the APC, duly participated at the said election. You will also recall that the APC emerged victorious at the election leading to our Lyon David Pereworinimi being declared and returned as winner of the election,’’ the letter reads.

“Our attention has been drawn to the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered on  February 14, 2020 in the pre-election appeal filed by the PDP and its governorship as well as deputy governorship,’’ Oshiomhole wrote.

‘‘In the said judgement of the Supreme Court, the candidature of our governorship and deputy governorship candidates were nullified and the commission was ordered to issue fresh certificate of returns with the highest number of votes and with the required geographical spread.

“It is however to be noted that the Supreme Court did not void the votes that our party polled at the election and the implication of this is that the votes of the APC must be reckoned with in determining whether any other candidate polled majority of lawful votes cast in one-quarter of at least two thirds majority of the state.

‘‘We have reviewed the judgment of the Supreme Court and we are of the firm opinion that the candidates of the PDP cannot be issued certificate of return and or sworn in as the Governor and Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State respectively.

‘‘We are aware of that section 179(1)(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandatorily requires a candidate for an election to the office of governor of a state to have not less than one quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two thirds of all the local government areas in the state before the candidate can be deemed to have been duly elected as the Governor of the State. This mandatory requirement was affirmed by the supreme court in the judgement under reference.”

The letter highlighted that Bayelsa State has eight local government areas, hence the two thirds of at least eight local government areas will be approximated to six local government areas.

“From the results announced and duly published by the commission, it is clear that no candidates meet this mandatory constitutional requirement, including the candidates of the who only managed to poll one quarter of the votes cast in only five local government areas,” the APC said.

The party said its position is fortified by the fact that there is a condition precedent to the winner being issued a certificate of return.

“The candidate of the PDP or any other candidate whatsoever, none satisfies the requirement of one quarter of the votes cast in at least 2/3 of the local government areas in the state as required by the supreme court judgment further request that a fresh election be conducted by the commission for the office of the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State,” the letter highlighted.