An avalanche of congratulatory messages have been coming the way of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in the last governorship election in Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri following the sacking of the candidate of the All Progressives Candidate, APC, David Lyons by the Supreme Court of Nigeria one day to his being sworn-in as governor of the state, having been declared governor-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC after the November 16 polls.
This is as INEC has assured that they would do the needful once served the apex Court’s order.
But the APC in Bayelsa is insisting that the Speaker of the House of Assembly should be sworn-in as acting governor pending a new election.
The party, which expressed shock over the Supreme Court ruling nullifying the election of Lyon, said through its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, that in spite of their shock, “one thing that is clear is that the Dickson’s administration must leave tomorrow (Friday, February 15, 2020). There is no room for elongation of tenure not even for one minute.
“It is clear that only APC met the required spread as we won convincingly in five out of the eight Local Government Areas (LGAs), so without that spread I do not see how PDP can make it, certainly the Speaker of the state House of Assembly would be sworn in as Acting Governor.
“Those of them celebrating in the PDP camp are doing so in ignorance,” he said.
The Supreme Court had on Thursday sacked Lyon and Sen. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, as the governor and deputy elect in the Nov. 16, 2019 Bayelsa governorship election.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who delivered the lead judgment reinstated the Nov. 12, 2019, Judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja that disqualified Degi-Eremieoyo from participating in the governorship poll.
The court held that the trial court was right in finding the deputy guilty of presenting false information to INEC.
The Justice Mary Odili-led panel, held that no person shall be qualified to contest election if he presented false information for the purpose of election.
The apex court ordered that the certificate of return be withdrawn immediately from the governor and his deputy and be issued to the candidate with the second highest votes in the Nov. 16, 2019 election.
The apex court held that the nomination form Degi-Eremieoyo submitted to INEC for the purpose of the Nov. 16, 2019, governorship election in the state, contained false information of fundamental nature.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had asked the court to regard the discrepancies in Degi-Eremienyo’s certificates as major impediments to his candidacy.
They accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) running mate of providing different names at all levels of his education.
The PDP alleged in its case that Mr Degi-Eremienyo’s name was written as Degi Biobara in his primary school certificate, the documents from his secondary education bore Adegi Biobarakumo, as his name, while that of his university education had Degi Biobarakuma as his name.
Also, the result from his MBA certificate had Degi Biobarakuma Wangaha as the name of the same person.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had dismissed the PDP’s case and affirmed the candidacy of the deputy governor-elect in the Nov. 16, 2019 governorship election in the state.
The judgment set aside the Nov. 12, 2019 verdict of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja disqualifying Degi-Eremieoyo as the APC’s deputy governorship candidate in the poll.
The Appellate court held that the Federal High Court judge erred in his decision disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate.
It held that there were not enough grounds for the Federal High Court to rule the way it did, adding that the allegation that Degi-Eremienyo gave false information to INEC was not proved as required.
It faulted the lower court’s reliance on Section 31(5 and 6) of the Electoral Act in disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate.
The court added that the allegations against Degi-Eremienyo were criminal in nature which required proof beyond reasonable doubt.
It said that the different names contained in the appellant’s Form CF 001, his First School Leaving Certificate and General Certificate of Education belonged to the same person, going by the supporting affidavit of change of name and newspaper publication.
The appellate court therefore set aside the Federal High Court’s judgment, and awarded N500, 000 cost against the respondents in favour of the appellants.
The Federal High Court had in its judgment held that Degi-Eremienyo gave false information to INEC about his academic qualifications allegedly evidenced by the discrepancies in the names contained in his credentials.
The trial court also held that the names on the different documents attached to his Form CF001 were said to be, Biobarakum Degi-Eremienyo, Degi Biobaragha, Degi Biobarakuma, Adegi Biobakunmo, Degi-Eremienyo Wangagha.
The APC’s candidate was said to have 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.”
Justice Ekwo held that there was no evidence to prove that the documents with different name variations were his.
He ruled, “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 went on to make a declaration “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).”
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s verdict, INEC said it will effect the ruling once it is served with the certified true copy of the judgment.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.
Okoye said while INEC was bound to obey court orders or judgments including that of Supreme Court, the commission could not act based on reports from radio reports or newspapers.
“It is when we receive the certified true copy of the judgment that we have clear understanding of what the court tells us to do and we will give effect to the judgment of the Supreme Court.
”All we have heard and seen as of today are just newspapers reports. We are waiting for our lawyers who are part of the proceedings, and certified true copy of the judgment to enable us study and give effect to it.
“INEC has no power not to implement the judgment of Supreme Court. We are waiting for the certified copy of the judgment so that we can give effect to what the apex court wants us to do.
“We don’t have any personal interest on the judgment of the Supreme Court. Our interest and competence is just to give effect to the judgment,” Okoye said.
Leading the chorus of congratulations is former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who, in a statement issued on Thursday in Abuja, said “The Lords Justices have given us another opportunity to show Nigerians that power belongs to the people, and we must make good use of this opportunity.”
Abubakar said that he received the verdict of the court, declaring Diri as the duly elected governor of the state, with gladness.
” Diri had cause to visit 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 said.
Abubakar called on all the people of Bayelsa to make peace with the recent past, and embrace the future together, united in the mission to transform the state into a haven of peace and prosperity.
“Finally, I urge the Supreme Court to show consistency in its judgments and find the resolve to always deliver just judgments no matter whose ox is gored.
“The people of Nigeria are behind the apex court in whatever they do to free themselves from the dominance of dictatorial forces,” he added.
The PDP Governors’ Forum on its part, congratulated Sen. Duoye and Sen. Ewhruojakpo, stressing that the victory was all the more remarkable as it reaffirmed the fact that “God is in charge of the affairs of men.”
In a statement by the Director- General of the Forum, Mr. C.I.D. Maduabum, in Abuja on Thursday, the Governors noted that the verdict “shows that the truth and the peoples will will ultimately triumph. This is a great victory for democracy and rule of law,” he said.
Maduabum said that as the governors welcomed Diri to their Forum, they prayed God to give him the wisdom and strength to steer the ship of Bayelsa aright.
“We implore you to carry everyone along and run an inclusive government worthy of the ideals of the PDP Governors’ family,” he said.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State in his congratulatory message said that his confidence in the Judiciary had been rekindled by the didactic ruling of the apex court.
He urged PDP and the governor-elect to take steps to reconcile all stakeholders in Bayelsa in order to strengthen the party for future elections.
“The news of the Supreme Court ruling on the Bayelsa governorship election came to me with joy.
“This is because we have been writhing in pain on the loss of Bayelsa to the APC in the last governorship election in the state.
“We are happy because the Supreme Court has once again restored the confidence of the people in the judiciary.
“This victory is a clarion call on the party and the governor-elect to take steps to reconcile all aggrieved party members who defected or worked against the party in the Nov. 16, 2019 Governorship Election in the state.
“This is very important, because there is need to rebuild the confidence of the people in our party, going forward,’’ Okowa said.
The governor added, “On behalf of the government and people of Delta, I congratulate our great party, the PDP, on the victory at the Supreme Court.
“It is my prayer that God will usher in a new lease of life for Bayelsans as a new administration takes over in the state.
“I also congratulate my brother governor, Chief Seriake Dickson, for a successful tenure in office”.
The Edo state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday in Benin also hailed the judgment with the State Chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih saying that it was a welcome development for Nigeria’s democracy.
He therefore wished the good people of Bayelsa, the government and the PDP family a successful inauguration as they form the state government to take the Oil rich state to higher heights.
Reacting, Mr. Daniel Alabarah, Special Adviser to Gov. Seriake Dickson said that the Supreme Court ruling in favour of PDP was “the will of God”.
“The PDP victory is not by our own power, it is the will of God. Many have defected to APC since the election but today, victory is for us.
“I believe the victory is for Bayelsa and not only for PDP. We want all parties to come together and we can move the state forward,” he said.