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Diri, INEC, ask Appeal Court to reverse tribunal’s judgment on Bayelsa election

The Bayelsa State Governor, Duoye Diri, on Thursday asked the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to reverse the decision of the state governorship election petition tribunal which nullified his victory in last year’s governorship election in the state.

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had also approached the appellate court and demanded the reversal of the tribunal’s ruling.

In their separate appeals, the appellants urged the court to uphold that the conduct of the governorship election and its outcome which produced Diri as governor complied with relevant laws.

Diri’s counsel, Mr. Chris Uche, (SAN), told the court that the case of the first respondent (Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP)) was statute barred at the time it was filed.

The tribunal had on August 17 nullified the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa.

The tribunal in a two-to-one judgment held that the ANDP and its governorship candidate, Mr. Lucky King-George, were unlawfully excluded by INEC from the election.

The panel subsequently ordered a fresh poll within 90 days

In his argument, Uche maintained that the case of the ANDP was a breach of the 1999 Constitution as it was based on an attempt to field two under-aged candidates as governor and deputy governor respectively.

READ ALSO: APC asks Supreme Court to reverse ruling on Bayelsa election

He argued that when INEC disqualified the ANDP from participating in the election in October 2019, the party did not challenge the disqualification until February this year.

Uche urged the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal which nullified Diri’s election and uphold the minority judgment, saying it was based on sound reasoning and law.

For its part, the PDP through its counsel, Mr. Yunus Ustaz (SAN), argued that if the court upheld the judgment of the tribunal and a rerun was ordered, the ANDP had nothing to gain since the case had become academic.

INEC in its appeal through its lawyer, Mr. Ibrahim Bawa (SAN) told the panel that the alteration done to Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution had restored the commission’s power to screen and disqualify any candidate wrongly nominated by a political party.

Bawa urged the appellate court to affirm the constitutional provisions of INEC to disqualify candidates in an election.

Responding, counsel to ANDP, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), urged the court to uphold the majority decision of the tribunal.

He added that the ANDP candidate was lawfully nominated and this was conveyed to INEC.

The counsel argued that the candidate was unlawfully disqualified and his party unlawfully excluded from the election.

Justice Adzira Mshella, who led the five-man panel, told the parties that the judgment date would be communicated to them later.

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