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Bayelsa Governorship Poll: Tribunal affirms Diri’s election victory

 

The Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, affirmed the election victory of Gov. Douye Diri of Bayelsa

The three-member tribunal, led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye-led, dismissed the petition by All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, as lacking in merit.

The tribunal, in a unanimous decision, held that the petitioners failed to adduce any credible evidence to substantiate any of the allegations they raised against the outcome of the state’s governorship poll.

It struck out as incompetent, all the additional proof of evidence as well as statements on oath of some of the witnesses that testified for the petitioners.

According to the tribunal, the law expressly provided that an election petition must be filed not later than 21 days after the result of an election was declared.

It held that such petition must, at the time it was filed, be accompanied with written statements of all the intended witnesses.

The tribunal held that the decision of Sylva and his party to file their additional proof of evidence and statement on oath of witnesses, long after they had filed the petition, was “tantamount to a surreptitious attempt to amend the case of the petitioners.”

More so, the tribunal dismissed the allegation that the deputy governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, tendered forged University Degree Certificate and NYSC Exemption Certificate, to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification to contest the election.

It held that the allegation was a pre-election matter that ought to be litigated before the Federal High Court, adding that the matter had become statute barred since the petitioners failed to challenge the genuineness of the certificates, 14 days after it was submitted to INEC.

Besides, it held that the issue of Ewhrudjakpo’s educational qualification was previously determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The tribunal said it took judicial notice of the fact that the 3rd respondent, Ewhrudjakpo, is a legal practitioner, saying it was satisfied that he was eminently qualified to contest the election.

The tribunal equally noted that though Sylva and his party prayed the panel to declare that they were the valid winners of the governorship election, it said they also applied for the same election to be declared invalid.

It held that prayers of the petitioners were contradictory, adding that Sylva and APC did not tender any electoral material to show that any irregularity occured during the election.

It held that the petitioners were unable to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on them by the law, stressing that they failed to show, polling units by polling units, the particulars of the non-compliance they alleged and how it substantially affected the outcome of the election.