Barely 24 hours to the inauguration, the Supreme Court, yesterday, sacked the Governor-elect of Bayelsa State, David Lyon, and his Deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo.
The duo ran on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of justices led by Justice Mary Odili, nullified their election on the ground that Degi-Eremienyo presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in aid of his qualification for the Bayelsa governorship poll held on November 16, 2019.
Following the ruling, confusion, yesterday, enveloped Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, though PDP faithful embarked on the wild celebration.
David Lyon had in the early hours of the day conducted a rehearsal for today’s swearing-in ceremony at the remodelled Samson Siasia Sports complex.
Heavily armed security operatives backed by armoured personnel carrier were stationed in front of the stadium.
APC’s flags and other insignia were hoisted at strategic places in town with that of PDP pulled down.
However, the mood of the capital city was altered shortly after noon when news of the sacking of the APC governor-elect filtered into town.
A long convoy of heavily armed soldiers backed by armoured personnel carriers were sighted yesterday at about 1 pm along the Mbiama Yenagoa road heading towards the heart of the state capital, ostensibly in a show of force.
Though the reasons for the large security presence could not be immediately ascertained, informed sources nonetheless told Vanguard that it might be in connection with the anticipated visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state tomorrow (Friday) for the inauguration of the APC governor-elect and the unveiling of the newly-completed ultra-modern complex of the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB.
It was also learned that the valedictory meeting of the state executive council, led by outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson, was in session when the news of the twist of the event filtered in, causing wild jubilation.
The Creek Haven, Bayelsa Government House gate, was flung open as PDP supporters thronged the sprawling complex in wild celebration.
APC flags which in the early hours of the day were hoisted at the roundabout leading to the state seat of power were hurriedly removed.
Attempts to get the comment of the state APC chairman, Mr Amos Jothan, proved abortive as his line did not go through.
An APC chieftain, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Vanguard: “There is nothing to say for now as regards the court ruling.”
Our correspondent who was at the APC secretariat noticed gloomy faces as canopies were being dismantled with few supporters discussing in hushed tunes.
However, the APC governor-elect has rejected the judgement which he said did not reflect the wish of Bayelsa people, and urged his supporters to remain calm.
Lyon at a news conference in Yenagoa called on APC supporters to remain calm as the party leaders and stakeholders meet to decide the next line of action.
Represented by the member representing Southern Ijaw federal constituency, Preye Oseke, the sacked APC governor-elect said: “We are in shock. We as a party and as people of Bayelsa are rejecting the judgement completely.”
Flanked by party chieftains and hundreds of supporters he added: “It is a procured judgement. While we have our respect for the revered justices, we believe that this is not the wish of Bayelsans.
“Again, we are calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission not to issue a certificate of return to the candidate of the PDP because he was unable to score the required 25 per cent in two-thirds of the local government areas.
“As a party, we are law-abiding, our properties have been destroyed even in the midst of the judgement that came this morning. We are calling on all our supporters to remain calm while our leaders and stakeholders meet and come up with the next line of action. We believe the right thing will be done. The rule of law will be upheld.”
The Supreme Court held that the Form CF 001 the deputy governor-elect submitted to INEC for the purpose of the election contained false information of fundamental nature.
The apex court, in its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, reinstated the November 12, 2019, judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja that disqualified Degi-Eremieoyo from participating in the governorship poll after it found him guilty of perjury.
It held that since Degi-Eremieoyo shared a joint ticket with Lyon, his disqualification, vitiated their nomination by the APC and their eventual emergence as governor and deputy governor-elect, respectively.
Consequently, the court ordered INEC to immediately withdraw the Certificate of Return it earlier issued to them, and issue a fresh one to the party that secured the second-highest number of lawful votes and got the required constitutional spread at the election.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has declared its readiness to act on the Supreme Court judgement but cannot do so now.
Reason: It is yet to get the court order at press time.
Sacking the APC candidates, who would have been sworn-in today, the apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of Justices, led by Justice Mary Odili, held that Degi-Eremieoyo presented a forged certificate to INEC.
Lyon polled 352,552 votes to defeat his closest rival and PDP candidate, Senator Duoye Diri, who scored 143,172 votes.
A few days to the election, the PDP and its candidate secured a court order disqualifying Degi-Eremieoyo but the appeal court cleared the APC candidate to run.
However, the Supreme Court, yesterday, held that the Form CF 001 Degi-Eremieoyo submitted to INEC for the purpose of November 16, 2019, governorship election contained false information of fundamental nature.
Justice Ejembi Eko who delivered the lead judgement reinstated the November 12, 2019, judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja which disqualified Degi-Eremieoyo from participating in the governorship poll.
The apex court held that since Degi-Eremieoyo shared a joint ticket with the governor-elect, his disqualification invalidated their nomination by the APC.
Of the eight local councils of Bayelsa, the PDP candidate won two – Kolokuma/Opokuma, and Sagbama and got more than 25 per cent of the votes cast in Ekeremor, Yenagoa and Brass. It did not fare well in Nembe (about 19 per cent), Ogbia and Southern Ijaw where it got less than 10 per cent of the votes cast.
According to the apex court ruling, Diri, who came second in the election must have 25 per cent of the votes cast in more than five of the eight local councils. Two-thirds of eight is 5.32 while Diri secured 25 per cent in five states.
It is to be seen how the INEC would resolve the issue, which is akin to the 12 two-thirds controversies that hallmarked the 1983 presidential election between late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and former President Shehu Shagari, also deceased. Then, there were 19 states. Shagari had a simple majority and 25 per cent in 12 states instead of approximately 13. But the apex court handed him victory based on 12 two-thirds of 25 per cent spread.
Speaking on the issue, yesterday, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, chief press secretary to the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said: “We just heard the ruling on the radio. There is no official communication. We will act on the order when we get it.
Also, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye said the commission would check its record to see which party came second in the election with a view to issuing its candidate a Certificate of Return.
“We would do that when we get the judgement of the Supreme Court so that we would know clearly what the Supreme Court want us to do and we would carry it out,” he said.
Meantime, Bayelsa State Government has described as divine, the apex court judgement, saying it reflected the true wishes of the people.
The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, congratulated the flag-bearer of the PDP, Senator Douye Diri and his running mate, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpor on their victory at the Supreme Court, which he said will further the course of development which Governor Dickson had laid in the last eight years.
Iworiso-Markson in a statement in Yenagoa expressed gratitude to God Almighty and judges at the apex court for standing true to the law.
He said: “I heartily congratulate Senator Douye Diri and Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpor for this befitting victory, as the Supreme Court has once more demonstrated it’s uprightness and credibility.
“It is my deep conviction that Senators Diri and Ewhrudjakpor will fulfil the expectations and yearnings of Bayelsans, consolidate on the achievements of Governor Dickson for a more prosperous state.”
Also, the state chapter of the PDP lauded Senator Douye Diri on his Supreme Court victory.
The State Publicity Secretary of the part, Osom Makbere, said: “Only God knows how to recompense for the many long nights of adversities we shared, whilst the opposition revelled in temporary timbrels and exuberant drums that collapsed into an abrupt decrescendo.
“It was a battle between God and those who showed jejune credulity towards some juggling fiends that creepily goaded them into an orgy of opaque incantations now suddenly revealed at the dawn of the Valentine eve.
“Now more than before, we need to bond, compact and aim to consciously deliver the dividends of democracy to our teeming faithful, while reconciling all loose ends of our party.”
Reacting to the ruling, National Chairman of the ruling APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said no candidate can be sworn-in today because none of the other candidates, apart from Lyon, met the requirement.
Noting that the Supreme Court ordered that the second candidate with the highest votes and 25 per cent spread across two-thirds of the local government areas be sworn in, Oshiomhole at a press briefing, yesterday declared: “Nobody will be sworn in on Friday (today) as the new governor in Bayelsa State.”
He said the Supreme Court judgement did not order that the PDP governorship candidate be sworn in.
He stated: “In this case, nobody apart from David Lyon meets the required spread as expressed by the Supreme Court. The next candidate who happens to be a PDP candidate does not have one-quarter of the votes cast in that election.
“Nobody has raised issues about whether or not David Lyon and his running mate won an overwhelming majority in the said election. Issues of whether a chieftaincy title is part of a name or is not a name in our view couldn’t be a reason to dismiss the wishes of the great people of Bayelsa State who repose absolute confidence in the way they elected David Lyon and his running mate during the last governorship election.
“Let me also say that it is not a state secret, if as the supreme court has ruled David Lyon cannot now be sworn in as the person who has the highest number of votes and the spread to be sworn in, it simply means from tomorrow (Friday), there will be no government in Bayelsa State.
“As far as we know, the next candidate, as the facts are before the court, who happens to be a PDP candidate does not have one-quarter of the total lawful votes cast in that election in 2/3 of the local government councils in Bayelsa State.
“Therefore, from the facts available to us, in consultation with our lawyers, it is clear that there is no candidate that meets the requirements of the Supreme Court, which means no one can be sworn in legally tomorrow unless there is a deliberate abuse of the legal process.
“We have accordingly asked our lawyers to look at all the windows that exist in law, and take steps to ensure that the will of the people of Bayelsa State is not undermined on the altar of technicalities. I am not a lawyer and I don’t need to be one.
“When judges make judgements, they are published and you can read and write. Even laymen like me can understand. In 1999, there was a similar case in Bauchi involving Gov. Adamu Muazu. The court found out that the running mate was not qualified for whatever reason to contest that election and accordingly the Supreme Court nullified the election of Gov. Adamu Muazu. And, the court as a consequence, directed INEC to conduct a fresh election.
“I believe it is still the same Supreme Court and, therefore, we have asked our lawyers to exploit all lawful legal windows to ensure that Bayelsa people have a governor of their choice.”
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has called on the Federal Government to warn Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to stop making inflammatory remarks capable of destabilising the country.
Governor Wike also berated the APC National Chairman for saying that there will be no swearing-in of the PDP Candidate in Bayelsa State, saying he has no such powers.
He said: “The Federal Government should warn Oshiomhole to stop making remarks that will destabilise Nigeria. What he is doing in Edo State is not proper and he should not bring it to the rest of the Niger Delta.”
He said that Oshiomhole lacks the power to make pronouncements after the Supreme Court has ruled on the Bayelsa matter.
“Who is Oshiomhole to determine who has spread in a state? Supreme Court has made a ruling. It is unfortunate for Oshiomhole to come forward to say that nobody will be sworn in,” he said.
Meanwhile, the PDP has said the Supreme Court judgement will not make it abandon its quest for a reversal of the apex court verdict on Imo State because the court will be “redeeming its image and restoring public confidence on its infallibility by reviewing the Imo verdict given the manifold unjustifiable mistakes contained in that judgement.”
Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, the party’s spokesman, in a statement said: “The PDP restates that the miscarriage of justice in the Imo State judgement is glaring given the established fact that the panel assumed the roles of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by recognizing the votes concocted by the All Progressives Congress and Senator Hope Uzodimma, which ended up increasing the total number of votes in the election to 950,952, over and above the INEC certified total accredited votes of 823,743.
“In another miscarriage of justice, the Supreme Court panel named Senator Uzodimma/APC as winner whereas it had on December 20, 2019, ruled that Uche Nwosu, and not Senator Uzodimma, won the APC governorship primary.
“The Supreme Court had also disqualified Uche Nwosu from the election for having acquired the governorship ticket of two political parties; the APC and the Action Alliance, AA, an aberration to the electoral laws.
“Our party holds that a judicial review on Imo governorship election has become inevitable because by these earlier rulings of the Supreme Court, not only is Sen. Uzodimma not a candidate, the judgements also nullified all the votes that could have been accruable to APC and AA and their candidate, Uche Nwosu, in the election, leaving the PDP candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, as the incontestable winner of the election.
“The PDP congratulates the people of Bayelsa state, the governor-elect, Senator Douye Diri and his deputy governor-elect, Lawrence Ewrujakpor, as their mandate has been restored.”
In another statement, the PDP asked Oshiomhole “to steer clear of Bayelsa State as his apparent plots to trigger violence in the state has failed.”
The statement continued: “The PDP further counselled Oshiomhole to be careful with his utterances and not use any forms of venomous garrulity and clear misuse of language to destabilize our nation and truncate our hard-earned democracy.
“The people of Bayelsa State know as a fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under our laws, cannot take instructions from any individual, let alone a factional national chairman of a dysfunctional political party like the APC.
“The PDP, as a law-abiding party, counsels Oshiomhole to rein in himself and desist from all odious designs against Bayelsa state, her people and government.”
Speaking on the ruling, Mr Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, SAN, cautioned against a situation where the courts now produce leaders because sovereignty belongs to the people.
His words: “The Constitution states clearly that sovereignty belongs to the people. The concept of election is to allow people to choose their leaders freely.
“We must avoid situations where leaders emerge through the courts, as that will be circumventing the will of the people. Let us allow people to choose their leaders. These tribunal/court cases in Imo, Bayelsa, Zamfara, etc, constitute a serious indictment of INEC and the political parties.
“There is no legacy that the present administration has bestowed upon us as a nation in the area of electoral reforms, but rather things have got worse. Having suffered electoral injustice in his previous efforts, it is shocking that the President has retained and continued to benefit from obviously flawed electoral processes.”
The presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar, described the Supreme Court verdict as an indication that power belongs to the people.
Atiku, in a statement on his Twitter handle, expressed joy at the court’s ruling, saying: “I received the verdict of the Supreme Court, declaring the candidate of the PDP in the Bayelsa state gubernatorial elections, Senator Douye Diri, as the duly elected Governor of the state, with gladness.
“Senator Douye Diri had cause to visit with me before the elections and received my blessings and counsel. I am fully satisfied that he has what it takes to make Bayelsa the ‘glory of all lands’. His intellect, personality and character, are a credit to Bayelsa and the PDP.”
He advised Douye to use the “opportunity to show Nigerians that power belongs to the people, and we must make good use of this opportunity.”
Justice Eko held that the Abuja Division of Court of Appeal erred in law when it cleared Degi-Eremieoyo to participate in the election on the premise that the allegation that he supplied false particulars to INEC, was not proved.
He held that Section 183(1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, was specific that no person shall be qualified to contest for governorship position if such person tendered forged certificates to INEC.
Justice Eko said there was evidence before the court that Degi-Eremieoyo had at various times in the past made use of certificates that bore different names.
He held that it was fraudulent for one person to bear various names to suit different purposes, adding that nothing in the affidavit of change of name that was tendered by Degi-Eremieoyo explained why he, chameleon-like, used different names in the past.
The judgement followed an appeal that was filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its governorship and deputy governorship candidates in Bayelsa State.
It will be recalled that trial Justice Inyang Ekwo of the high court had in his judgement in PDP’s suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1101/2019, invalidated Degi-Eremienyo’s participation in the Bayelsa State governorship election on the ground that he supplied false information to INEC.
Cited as defendants in the matter were Lyon, Degi-Eremienyo and INEC.
The trial court held that all the documents containing the educational qualifications he claimed in his Form CF 001, bore different names.
The various names on the documents attached to his Form CF001 were said to be, Biobarakum Degi-Eremienyo, Degi Biobaragha, Degi Biobarakuma, Adegi Biobakunmo, Degi-Eremienyo Wangagha.
Justice Ekwo held that by supplying false information to INEC, the defendant acted in breach of section 31(5) and (6) of the 2010 Electoral Act.
However, a three-man panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgement on December 23, 2019, voided the high court’s verdict.
The appellate court panel which was headed by Justice Stephen Adah held that the high court erred in its decision, stressing that the allegation that Degi-Eremienyo gave false information to INEC was not proved as required by law.
The appellate court faulted the lower court’s reliance on Section 31(5 and 6) of the Electoral Act in disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate.
It noted that since allegations against Degi-Eremienyo were criminal in nature, it ought to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Aside from setting aside the judgement of the high court, the appellate court awarded N500, 000 cost against the Respondents, in favour of the appellants.
Dissatisfied with the decision, PDP and its governorship candidate took the matter before the Supreme Court where they secured victory on Thursday.
The trial high court had in its judgement that was affirmed by the apex court, observed that processes before it revealed that Degi-Eremienyo claimed to have obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1976 and presented to INEC, “a First Leaving School Certificate of one Degi Biobaragha other than the one bearing his name Biobaragha Degi-Eremieoyo as shown in his INEC Form CF001”.
He was also said to have claimed to have obtained his West African Examinations Council General Certificate of Education in 1984 and presented to INEC, a GCE certificate of one Adegi Bibakuo other than the one bearing his name Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo as shown in his INEC Form CF001.
Relying on a decided case-law in Action Congress V. INEC (2007), Justice Ekwo held that, “where a candidate is found to have lied on oath, a court must issue an order disqualifying such a candidate from contesting the election.”
He held that having considered all the processes before the court, there was no evidence to prove that the documents with different name variations belonged to the defendant.
“I further hold that the information given by the 3rd defendant on Form CF 001 that the documents thereto attached as his have not by any iota of credible evidence been so established.
“The information is false in all material particular as none of the said documents have any nexus with the name of the 3rd defendant (Degi-Eremienyo) on the said Form CF001″, the Judge held.
The trial court, therefore, declared that “the information which the 3rd defendant submitted to the 2nd defendant in his INEC Form CF001, that, affidavit in support of personal particulars of person seeking election to the office of the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State is false contrary to section 31(5) of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended).”
“A declaration is hereby made that by virtue of the mandatory constitutional and statutory provisions of sections 6(6), 186 and 187(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the 3rd defendant stands disqualified from contesting the forthcoming Bayelsa State Governorship election as Deputy Governor, slated for November 16, 2019, or any other state thereabout on the platform of the 1st defendant (APC) or any other political party by reason of the fact that the 3rd defendant has presented false information as to his educational qualifications or name in INEC Form CF001 in support of his nomination contrary to section 31(5) and (6) of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended).
“An order is hereby made disqualifying the 3rd defendant as the Deputy Governorship candidate at the 1st defendant (APC) in the November 16, 2019, Bayelsa State governorship election by reason of the 3rd defendant presenting false information to the 2nd defendant (INEC) in support of his nomination contrary to section 31(5) and (6) of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended).”Read Full Story