Appeal Court affirms Diri as Bayelsa governor

Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State

The Court of Appeal in Abuja has affirmed Duoye Diri as governor of Bayelsa State.

A five-man panel of the appellate court in two unanimous judgments on Friday reversed the majority judgment of the Governorship Election Tribunal which sacked Diri.

In a split judgment on August 17, two out of three judges had upheld the petition filed by Lucky King-George, candidate of the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, on grounds that the Independent National Electoral Commission was wrong to have excluded the party from the November 16, 2019 governorship election.

The tribunal ordered INEC to conduct a fresh poll in the state within 90 days.

But in three separate appeals, Diri, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC had approached the appellate court seeking to upturn the tribunal’s decision.

In the lead appeal, Chris Uche, Diri’s counsel, submitted that the petition by the ANDP was statute-barred.

According to Uche, the ANDP had filed its petition more than five months after the cause of action arose, instead of within 14 days as stated in the Electoral Act.

PDP, in its appeal filed by Yunus Ustaz, their counsel, drew the court’s attention to the affidavit of the ANDP national chairman, where he admitted that the party had no candidate in the November 16 governorship poll.

He added that if a rerun is ordered, the ANDP will have nothing to gain because the case has become “academic”.

INEC, in its own appeal, argued that by the alteration done to section 285 of the 1999 constitution, it has the power to screen and disqualify any candidate wrongly nominated by a political party.

INEC had explained that it excluded ANDP from the election because David Esinkuma, the party’s initial deputy governorship candidate, did not meet the age requirement of 35 years.

Delivering judgement on Friday, a five-man panel of the appellate court, led by Adriza Mshella, upheld Diri’s appeal.

The court held that the petition filed by the ANDP at the lower tribunal was statute-barred.

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