The Supreme Court on Thursday nullified the election of David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his deputy as governor-elect and deputy governor-elect of Bayelsa State in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state.
The apex court ordered that the certificate of return issued to Lyon and his deputy be withdrawn immediately and another issued to the party and candidate who came second in the election.
With this judgment, the candidate with the highest lawful votes and with wide geographical spread, Diri Duoye of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who represents Bayelsa Central District at the Senate, will now be sworn in alongside his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District.
The judgment, coming barely 24 hours to the swearing-in of Lyon as Bayelsa State governor, has left many in the state in palpable shock and disbelief.
Before the judgment, preparations were on top gear for Lyon’s inauguration as a good number of APC chieftains, including President Muhammadu Buhari, were expected to attend the ceremony slated for the main bowl of the Samson Siasia Sports Stadium, Yenagoa.
While some Bayelsa citizens who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed disappointment at the apex court’s judgment, Fidelis Soriwei, chief press secretary to outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson, told BusinessDay on phone that the people are happy and celebrating.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said the Supreme Court verdict declaring the PDP candidate in the Bayelsa gubernatorial election as the duly elected governor shows the apex court wants to free itself from dominance of dictatorial forces.
While describing the verdict as a thing of gladness, the PDP presidential candidate, in a statement issued on Thursday, said he was more confident that Diri would impact the needed development in Bayelsa State.
The five-man panel of the Supreme Court justices, led by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, in a unanimous judgment held that the trial court was right to have voided the candidacy of deputy governorship candidate of APC, Biobarakuma Degi-Eriemienyo.
The judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko nullified the nomination and participation of Lyon and his running-mate in the election.
Justice Eko upheld the judgment of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that the case of forgery has been established going by the documents presented by Degi-Eremienyo with various names.
Justice Ekwo had on November 12 disqualified the lawmaker for allegedly supplying false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as part of requirement for the governorship poll.
In a judgment, Justice Ekwo said Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in relation to his educational qualifications and went ahead to depose to an affidavit to correct the discrepancies.
The judge held that all Degi-Eremienyo’s documents bore different names.
However, Appeal Court in Abuja on December 23, 2019 annulled the Federal High Court judgment disqualifying Degi-Eremienyo from participating in the Bayelsa governorship election.
A three-man panel of the Appeal Court, chaired by Justice Stephen Adah, held that the Federal High Court erred in law and in breach of the appellant’s right to a fair hearing.
According to him, the case which was brought under Section 36 of the Electoral Act was criminal in nature and the respondents in the case ought to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his form C001 submitted to INEC as part of his qualifications to contest the election.
The appellate court held that the lawmaker submitted an affidavit sworn to court to prove that the name Adeyi-Eremienyo on his school-leaving certificate is one and the same as Degi-Eremienyo on his GCE certificate and newspaper cuttings announcing to the whole world a change in name. It said this was not challenged by the respondents in the lower court and, as such, the findings of the lower court were erroneous.
“I agree with the appellant that the owner of the school leaving certificate and the GCE certificate are one and the same and I therefore set aside the judgment of the court below,” the Appeal Court judge said.
But on Thursday, Justice Eko of the Supreme Court, who read out different names on the primary school leaving certificate, General Certificate of Education (GCE), first degree, NYSC discharge certificate and the Masters’ degree, said Degi-Eremienyo did not approach lawful authorities to correct the multiple names on the certificates.
The apex court said that the running-mate to the governor-elect has different names on his certificates to secure clearance for APC deputy-governorship ticket.
The court held that from the documents submitted to INEC, the deputy governor-elect “fraudulently and chameleously” used different names when it suited him.
The apex court said that the deputy governor-elect and his political party, APC, did not dispute the fact deposed to by the appellant that the multiple names were clearly and fraudulently used in the form CF001 submitted to the electoral body for the election.
The apex court held that an affidavit of regularisation of names purportedly done by the governor-elect and published in the Chronicle Newspaper was a futile attempt to justify the multiplicity of names submitted to INEC and contained on the certificates.
The Supreme Court, therefore, came to the conclusion that the primary school certificate obtained in 1976, GCE in 1984, first degree in 1990 and others were products of forgery and that the deputy governor-elect violated section 182 of the 1999 constitution.
The apex court set aside for being pervasive the Court of Appeal judgment which held that a case of forgery was not established against Degi-Eremienyo.
The court, therefore, voided the joint ticket of Lyon and his running-mate and set aside their participation in the Bayelsa governorship election.
Justice Eko ordered that the certificate of return already issued to the governor-elect by INEC be withdrawn immediately and that a fresh one be issued to the candidate who scored the second highest number of lawful votes with geographical spread and with requisite qualification.
FELIX OMOHOMHION, SOLOMON AYADO (Abuja) & SAMUEL ESE (Yenagoa)