Appeal court overturns nullification of Douye Diri’s election as Bayelsa governor

The court of appeal sitting in Abuja has 
has overturned the tribunal ruling which nullified the election of Douye Diri as governor of Bayelsa state.

In a split judgment at the Tribunal on August 17, two out of three judges had upheld the petition filed by Lucky King-George, candidate of the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), on grounds that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was wrong to have excluded the party from the November 16, 2019 governorship election.

The tribunal ordered INEC to conduct a fresh poll in the state within 90 days.

But in three separate appeals, Diri, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC had approached the appellate court seeking to upturn the tribunal’s decision.

In the lead appeal, Diri's counsel, Chris Uche, submitted that the petition by the ANDP was statute-barred.

According to Uche, the ANDP had filed its petition more than five months after the cause of action arose, instead of within 14 days as stated in the Electoral Act.

PDP, in its appeal filed by their counsel, Yunus Ustaz, drew the court’s attention to the affidavit of the ANDP national chairman, where he admitted that the party had no candidate in the November 16 governorship poll.

He added that if a rerun is ordered, the ANDP will have nothing to gain because the case has become “academic”.

INEC, in its own appeal, argued that by the alteration done to section 285 of the 1999 constitution, it has the power to screen and disqualify any candidate wrongly nominated by a political party.

INEC had explained that it excluded ANDP from the election because David Esinkuma, the party’s initial deputy governorship candidate, did not meet the age requirement of 35 years.

Delivering judgement on Friday, a five-man panel of the appellate court, led by Adriza Mshella, upheld Diri’s appeal.

The appeal court held that the Bayelsa Election Petition Tribunal acted outside its jurisdiction by nullifying the election of Governor Diri.

In a unanimous judgment, the five-man panel of the court said the AND failed woefully to show that it had a valid candidate that was unlawfully excluded by the INEC.

The court berated the tribunal for ignoring the fact that the petition of ANDP was status barred in addition to the fact that the party presented an unqualified candidate to INEC in the November 16, 2019 Governorship election in Bayelsa State.

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