INEC will respond to nullification of Bayelsa governorship election – Commissioner

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As Diri appeals ruling

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it will respond to some of the issues raised by the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal when it is availed of the full judgment of the case.

The INEC national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on in Abuja when he reacted to yesterday’ nullification of the state’s governorship election which produced Mr. Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor.

Okoye, however, noted that the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) nomination for the election was invalid while the party did not exercise its right guaranteed in the Fourth Alteration to the constitution by filing its suit within 14 days of the accrual of the said right.

Okoye recalled that the ANDP was one of the political parties that signified its intention to contest the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa governorship election.

He said the party conducted party primaries and submitted the name of one Peter David as its deputy governorship candidate.

“As at the time of the submission of the name of the said candidate, he was 34 years old, contrary to Section 177(b) of the constitution that makes it mandatory for a candidate for such office to attain the age of 35 years to be eligible to contest the election.

“In the candidate’s statutory declaration of age and affidavit attached to his form, the party stated that he was born on February 10, 1985.

“On Sept. 13, 2019, the commission wrote to the party drawing their attention to the constitutional age requirement of 35 years for Governorship/Deputy Governorship candidates as stipulated in Section 177(b) of the constitution.

“The commission also informed them of the invalidity of their nomination for the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State,” he said.

Okoye also recalled that on September 21, 2019 and in response to the letter of the commission dated September 13, 2019, the ANDP wrote the commission acknowledging the invalidity of its nomination and forwarding the name of one Inowei Janeth as their new deputy governorship candidate.

“On Sept. 27, 2019, the commission informed the party that the deadline for the submission of nominations as provided for in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by the commission on May 16, 2019 was Sept. 9, 2019.

“The commission also informed the party that since they did not submit a valid nomination, they couldn’t validly substitute any candidate.

“Consequently the name and logo of the party did not appear and was not reflected in the ballot paper.

“It is pertinent to note that the party did not exercise its right guaranteed in the Fourth Alteration to the constitution by filing its suit within 14 days of the accrual of the said right as the issues canvassed are pre-election issues.

“The commission may respond to some of the issues raised in the judgment of the tribunal when we are availed of the full judgement and the reasons for the judgement,” Okoye said.

The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja had on Monday nullified the election of Diri.

The ANDP had through its governorship candidate, King Lucky George, and the national chairman, Mr. Charles Ogboli, approached the tribunal seeking the nullification of the November 19, 2019 governorship election.

The party demanded an order for fresh election on the grounds that its name and logo were excluded from the ballot papers used for the election.

Counsel for the party, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju told the tribunal that INEC witnessed and monitored its governorship primary and that it was curious and unacceptable that the electoral body later excluded it from the election.

Counsel for INEC, Mr. Ibrahim Bawa told the tribunal that after examining the evidence tabled by the petitioners, the commission preferred not to call any witness.

The lawyers for the PDP, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, and Governor Diri of Bayelsa, Mr. Gordy Uche, spoke along the same line, saying instead of calling witnesses, they would submit documents to the tribunal.

In its ruling, the Justice Ibrahim Sirajo-led panel said it found merit in the petition and consequently nullified the election and ordered INEC to conduct a bye-election in the state within 90 days.

The ruling came after the three-member tribunal had on Saturday, August 15, dismissed three petitions filed by filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the United People’s Congress (UPC) and the Liberation Movement (LM) Against the election of Diri.

The ANDP had through its governorship candidate, King Lucky George, and national chairman, Mr. Charles Ogboli, approached the tribunal seeking the nullification of the November 19, 2019 governorship election.

The party demanded an order for fresh election on the grounds that its name and logo were excluded from the ballot papers used for the election.

Meanwhile, Diri said he had instructed his lawyers to appeal the ruling of the state election petition tribunal which nullified his election.

He expressed confidence that he would emerge successful at the end of the legal tussle.

“We trust in the judiciary and we are appealing the judgement. With God on our side, we will get justice.

“This is a court of first instance and I have instructed our lawyers to file an appeal. We have a right of appeal even up to the Supreme Court,” he said.

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