The Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a ruling which nullified the election of Douye Diri as governor of Bayelsa State.
A five-man panel of the Appeal Court held that the Bayelsa Election Petition Tribunal acted outside its jurisdiction by nullifying the election of Diri.
The Appellate court stated that the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) failed woefully to show that it had a valid candidate that was unlawfully excluded by the Independent National Electoral Commission (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.
INEC, Diri and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have pleaded that the result of the poll be affirmed.
In the lead appeal, Diri’s counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), argued that the case of the first respondent was statute barred as at the time it was filed.
He said the ANDP suit was a breach of the constitution because it was based on an attempt to field two underaged candidates contrary to constitutional provisions.
Uche contended that when INEC disqualified ANDP from participating in the election, the party did not challenge the disqualification until February 2020, which he noted was more than the 14 days allowed by law.
The SAN urged the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal which invalidated Diri’s election and uphold the minority judgment which he stressed was based on sound reasoning and law.
PDP counsel, Yunus Ustaz (SAN), drew the attention of the court to the ANDP National Chairman’s affidavit.
Ustaz said the official admitted that the party didn’t contest in the November 16 poll and that if a rerun is ordered, the ANDP has nothing to gain because the case has become academic.
INEC lawyer, Ibrahim Bawa (SAN), informed the court that the alteration done to section 285 of the 1999 constitution restored power of the electoral body to screen and disqualify any candidate wrongly nominated by a party.
Bawa prayed the court to affirm the constitutional provisions empowering INEC to disqualify candidate(s) in an election.
ANDP lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), asked the court to uphold the majority decision of the tribunal which voided the poll.
Ogunwumiju insisted that candidate of the ANDP was lawfully nominated and conveyed to INEC, adding that INEC unlawfully disqualified and excluded the flagbearer and his party.