The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ruled out the exclusion of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from tomorrow’s governorship election in Bayelsa State.
INEC told journalists last night in Abuja that the two governorship elections slated for Kogi and Bayelsa states the same day would go on as planned.
The commission’s decision has rested the controversy and fears generated over the participation of APC in the Bayelsa poll as the Federal High Court in Yenagoa had earlier declared that the party does not have a governorship candidate for the election because its purported primaries breached the party’s constitution.
The verdict by Justice Jane Inyang, followed a suit filed by one of the APC governorship aspirants, Heineken Lokpobiri.
Lokpobiri had prayed the court to declare him the APC candidate instead of David Lyon, whose name the party submitted to INEC for the race.
A few hours after the lower court’s verdict, the Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, cleared APC to contest in the election when it ordered an interim stay of execution of the Federal High Court ruling which disqualified the deputy governorship candidate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
Degi-Eremienyo, who was represented by D.D. Dodo (SAN), was granted the following reliefs: That the status quo ante bellum which existed on or before the 19th September, 2019 when the suit was filed be maintained pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
An interim order for stay of judgment of the lower court delivered on November 12, 2019 pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The motion on notice to be heard on November 20, 2019 and the respondents to be served with the motion on notice and copy of the court order.
The minister of State for Petroluem, Chief Timipre Sylva, who was in the company of governorship candidate, David Lyon, Senator Degi-Eremienyo and Prof. Seiyefa Brisibe, said that the judgement was good news for the people of Bayelsa and the triumph of justice.
He said that no trick through the courts employed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government in the state would save it from being voted out tomorrow.
In its reaction to the development, INEC said that all the political parties earlier cleared for the polls in Bayelsa and Kogi states were eligible to participate.
After an extensive meeting at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, yesterday, INEC said that the election would go on as planned in both states.
The spokesman of INEC chairman, Rotimi Onyekanmi, said: “Dear colleagues (journalists), the meeting has ended but we are not issuing a statement. However, our elections in both Kogi and Bayelsa will go on as planned.”
In nullifying the APC governorship primaries held on September 4 primaries, the lower court said that the election did not conform with the provisions of the party.
Justice Inyang said that the declaration of the result of the party primaries by the secretary of the Election Committee, Senator Emmanuel Ochoja, instead of the panel’s chairman, Mai Mala Buni, breached the APC’s constitution.
Inyang chastised the committee for throwing caution to the wind when it conducted and announced the result of the primaries, stressing that the actions of the committee did not conform with the party’s guidelines.
She said the decision of Ochoja to take over the duty of the chairman of the committee, truncated the whole process, “neither the plaintiff nor the first defendant can lay claim to the ticket of the party.”
She later declared that the APC does not have a validly elected candidate and set aside the governorship primaries.
Justice Inyang directed INEC not to include the names of Lokpobiri (plaintiff) and Lyon (first defendant) on the ballot paper and directed that “the legal unit of INEC is to be served quickly.”
Counsels to the plaintiff and first/second defendants however, kicked against the decision of the court.
Mr. Fitzgerald Olorogun, the counsel to Lokpobiri, described the judgment as strange, adding that it was not in line with the prayers of the plaintiff.
Sidney Barachuka, the counsel to Lyon and the APC, described the judgment as a “travesty of Justice.”
A former member of the House of Representative, Hon. Henry Ofongo, said: “The court is not in a position to determine the fate of the party because it is settled in law that only INEC has the right to decide which party should not contest the election. We have our guidelines and we have followed them to the latter. However, you know that I am not a judge but we are going to appeal the case and as I am concerned INEC has come out to say that all these last-minute judgements will not stop the election. So, this will not stop anything at all because at the end, we will win.”
At a separate interactive session with newsmen, the alternate director-general of the David Lyon Campaign Organisation, Prof Seyefa Brisibe, said that though the party had filed an appeal and stay of execution on the judgement, “it was given by a lower court and the processes are clear that we have the room to secure a stay of execution and file for an appeal which our lawyers have done.”
12 Missing As US Group, CSOs Caution Against Election Violence
Ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election in Bayelsa, the PDP has said that eight and not five people were killed in the violence that erupted in Nembe on Wednesday.
The media had reported yesterday that five people were killed in Nembe when suspected APC thugs attacked the ruling party’s campaign rally in the town.
Reacting to the report yesterday, the state chapter of the PDP said that eight people were killed while 12 others were missing.
Meanwhile, the John Pofi Foundation working with the United States Nigeria Law Group (USNLG) and the Coalition of Civil Society Groups for Electoral Integrity have called for a probe of the sponsors of election violence that erupted in Bayelsa.
The groups also urged the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) governments to place an immediate travel visa ban on politicians, who have sponsored, incited or executed violence in previous or the forthcoming Bayelsa election.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that a driver of Outside Broadcasting Van (OBV) of Radio Bayelsa, Simon Onu, was killed on Wednesday during a clash between hoodlums said to be thugs hired by some politicians to disrupt a rally in Nembe Ogbolomabiri.
Some journalists covering the rally were caught in the crossfire as many residents sustained different degrees of injuries.
In a statement issued yesterday by Rev. John Pofi, president of John Pofi Foundation in Yenagoa, he said that violence in the state had led to the loss of several lives and properties of the residents.
Also, the National Democratic Frontiers has called for the immediate arrest of the sponsors and perpetrators of Wednesday’s killing of supporters of the PDP in Nembe.
The group in a statement issued in Yenagoa by its coordinator, Dr Ben Shuaib, said that the sad event undermined the preparedness of INEC and the security agencies for governorship election.
Stop Spreading Falsehood, Kogi APC Tells PDP
Also yesterday, the APC Governorship Campaign Council told the Kogi State chapter of the opposition PDP to stop spreading fake news and face its imminent defeat in the governorship poll.
The chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of the APC campaign team, otherwise known as Bello/Onoja Campaign Council, Hon. Kingsley Fanwo, stated this when he fielded questions from journalists after the APC mega rally in Lokoja.
He said; “Let me start by thanking the people of our dear state for coming out en masse to support our governorship candidate and our party right from the beginning of this electioneering. Governor Yahaya Bello will not disappoint you.
“The intimidating number of people who attended our rallies is the reason the PDP has recruited its best fact twisters to spread falsehood against our party.
“Musa Wada became a controversial candidate of his party after sharing dollars and motorbikes openly. The primary was greeted with booms of gunshots after which he was declared winner the following day. His mercenaries have been attacking our supporters across the state and even burning houses.
“To turn around and point accusing fingers at us is hypocritical and diversionary. We have no intention of bribing anyone to win. We have the people behind us,” he said.
Fanwo, therefore, charged security agencies to fish out the “imported killers” of the PDP before Saturday’s poll; alleging that the PDP was raising “false alarm” to scare voters from coming out to exercise their franchise.
“We believe in the neutrality of state institutions to organise and supervise a free, fair and peaceful election in Kogi State on Saturday.
“For close to four years, Governor Yahaya Bello has implemented policies and programmes that have endeared him to the people of the state. The only thing Wada has on record is the failure of his brother for four years,” he said.
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