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Supreme Court throws out Lokpobiri’s appeal against Lyon

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the appeal filed by Heineken Lokpobiri, a former Minister of State for Agriculture, against the candidacy of Bayelsa governor-elect, David Lyon.

They are both members of the Bayelsa of All Progressives Congress (APC).

The five-member panel of justices, presided over by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, held that the appeal was statute-barred. The panel held that it was filed outside the time limit, 14 days, for such application which is against provisions of the electoral act and the constitution.

Lokpoberie had alleged that he won the September 4 governorship primary election of the party.

Two days to the governorship election, Jane Inyang, judge of a Federal High Court in Yenagoa, the state capital, on November 14, 2019, ruled in favour of Lokpobiri, nullifying the primary election which produced Lyon as the governorship candidate of the APC.

However, the APC obtained an interim order from the Court of Appeal staying the order of the lower court which barred them from participating in the November 16 governorship poll.

Lyon eventually emerged winner of the election with 352,552 votes, defeating the People’s Democratic Party candidate.

In the judgment, Justice Isaiah Olufemi of the Appeal Court  held that Lokpobiri failed to comply with the statutory 14-day period, saying that he ought to have filed the case not later than September 17, 2019.

“The matter was filed on Sept. 18, outside the 14 days statutory period. The petition was not filed within time,’’ he said.

Unsatisfied with the judgment, Lokpobiri had approached the Supreme Court for redress.

The unanimous judgment read by Justice John Inyang Okoro, on Tuesday, held that the cause of action took place on September 4, 2019, when the primary of the party was held and name of the winner announced, and not on the September 7, when the Lyon’s name was submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the party.

Justice Okoro stated that the provisions of section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution was categorical and emphatic that all political cases must be instituted within a 14 days’ time frame.

The apex court disagreed with the appellant that the cause of action arose from September 7, 2019 when Lyon’s name was submitted by the APC to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the party’s flag bearer, adding that the cause of action actually arose from September 4, 2019 when the result of the primary election was declared by the party.

Lokpobiri had prayed the apex court to void the decisions of both the trial court and the appellate court in Port Harcourt which earlier held that his case was statute-barred and no longer has life at the time it was instituted.

The former Minister had averred that the two lower courts erred in law when they held that he ought to have filed his grievances from the date the result of the primary election was announced and not from the date his opponent’s name was submitted to the electoral body.

Lokpobiri specifically insisted that he won the primary election in five out of the eight Local Government Areas in the state with a wide margin and that Lyon was illegally and unlawfully declared by the APC as winner of the primary election.

However the apex court in the final judgment held that Lokpobiri’s case was irredeemably bad because it violated section 285(9) of the Constitution having been filed outside the 14 days allowed by law.

The court held that where the provision of a law is so specific as in the time frame to file a pre-election matter, the general provision must give way, adding the provision of section 285(9) does not envisage any elongation.

Justice Okoro subsequently dismissed the appeal for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

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