God behind my govt, says Diri after Appeal Court judgment

Bayelsa State Governor, Mr Douye Diri, has described Friday’s separate Court of Appeal victories in favour of him and his deputy, Mr Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, as an evidence of God behind his government.

Diri, in a statement by his acting Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Alabrah, applauded the Court of Appeal for upholding the law and dispensing justice to all.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Friday, had overturned the August 17, 2020 verdict of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which had sacked Diri from office and ordered a fresh poll to be conducted within 90 days.

A five-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Adezila Mshelia unanimously set aside the tribunal’s verdict and affirmed Diri’s election in its judgment delivered on Friday.

The three-man election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja had, in a split decision of two-to-one, nullified the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa State governorship election as a result of the unlawful exclusion of the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party and its candidate, King George, from the exercise.

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Dissatisfied with the judgment, Diri; his party, the Peoples Democratic Party; and the Independent National Electoral Commission had filed separate appeals against it.

In its lead judgment delivered by Justice Obande Ogbuinya on Friday, the Court of Appeal held that the ANDP’ case was a pre-election matter that ought to have been filed at the regular court within 14 days of realising that it had allegedly been excluded from the election unlawfully.

Justice Ogbuinya also agreed with the appellants that INEC had the power to disqualify any candidate who failed to meet the requirements for participating in an election.

The court dismissed another appeal filed by Mr Ebizimo Diriyai, the candidate of the Accord Party, on the grounds that the allegation of certificate forgery levelled against the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt as required by law on criminal allegations.

Justice Folasade Ojo, who delivered the lead judgment, agreed with Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), that the Accord Party’s case, being a pre-election matter, was statute-barred and incompetent, having been filed outside 14 days stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.

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The court, therefore, dismissed the appeal of the Accord Party and its governorship candidate in its entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

The court also gave the same reason for dismissing the petition filed by the Alliance for Democracy and Liberation Movement alongside their governorship candidates.

Reacting to the judgment, Diri said, “I want to thank God for this victory. Today, a Daniel came to judgment in the name of the Court of Appeal, which has given the true position of the law and we are happy about it.”

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