Appeal Court Declines to Join ANDP Faction in Diri’s Appeal

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•Fixes September 23 to hear all pending motions

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The move by a faction of the Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) to join in Governor Douye Diri’s appeal against the judgement of Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, yesterday suffered a setback as the Court of Appeal in Abuja dismissed the party’s request for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

Diri had last month approached the appellate court to set aside the majority judgement of the tribunal which nullified the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa governorship election that brought him to power.

The nullification was predicated on the petition of the candidate of ANDP in the election, Mr. Lucky King-George, against his exclusion from the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The majority decision had upheld his argument that he was unlawfully excluded from the poll and subsequently ordered INEC to conduct a fresh poll in the state within 90 days.

However, when the matter came up yesterday, a lawyer, Mr. Dominic Anyiador, announced appearance for a faction of the party led by its Chairman, Mr. James Femowei, and drew the court’s attention to their application seeking to be joined as an interested party in the appeal filed by Diri.

The applicants, which include; ANDP’s National Vice Chairman, South-east, Mr. Barnabas Nwanguma; National Publicity Secretary, Fortune Oyadonghan; National Director of NGO/Volunteers, Mr. Fred Ikhaghu; and Director of Admin/Records, Linda Nyam, claimed to be the authentic faction of ANDP.
They told the appellate court that they were unaware of the petition filed by the party challenging Diri’s election at the tribunal.

The applicants disclosed that the party did not conduct any primary election or fielded candidates for the governorship election, hence, their adoption and endorsement of Diri and his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, as its preferred candidate in the election.

They also claimed that the National Chairman of the party, Mr. Charles Ogboli, who filed the petition was expelled in 2018.
“The 1st respondent (ANDP) as a political party endorsed and adopted his Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, and his deputy, Senator Lawrence Erhujakpor, as its gubernatorial candidates in the said November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election conducted by the 3rd (INEC) respondent in Bayelsa State,” the application stated.

“The judgement of the lower court nullifying the election of the governor of Bayelsa State came to the interested parties and other members of the 1st respondent as a rude shock, the reason being that they were/are not aware of any pending suit by the 1st respondent against the governor of Bayelsa State bothering on his election held on the November 16, 2019.

“It was later learnt by the interested parties/other members of the 1st, respondent that it was the sacked and expelled national chairman of the 1st respondent, Charles Ogboli, that instituted the petition at tribunal against the governor of Bayelsa State purportedly on behalf of the 1st respondent and its members,” their lawyer told the appellate court.

But in a quick objection, lawyer to the Ogboli-led ANDP, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the application on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to take the motion not being an election matter but an inter-party affair.

He also said the applicants could not be joined to the suit at the appeal stage because they were not parties at the tribunal.
Also, Ogunwumiju said the applicants had failed to seek the leave of court before filing their application.

In a short ruling, a three-man panel of Justices led by Justice Stephen Adah dismissed the request for joinder.
Adah said the application is “irrelevant, prejudicial and waste of judicial time.”

The court also ordered the applicants to pay N200,000 to each of the appellants as well as the respondents in the suit.
The court then adjourned till September 23 for the hearing of all pending motions in the appeal.