Tribunal Affirms Diri, Ododo As Bayelsa, Kogi Governors


Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, has affirmed the re-election of Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

The tribunal led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye dismissed as lacking in merit, the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva.

Similarly, the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, affirmed the election victory of Governor Usman Ododo of the APC in the November 11, 2023 governorship poll.

The three-member panel of justices, headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, held that the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate Murtala Ajaka was bereft of substance and accordingly dismissed it.

In a unanimous decision on the Bayelsa polls, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to adduce any credible evidence to substantiate any of the allegations they raised against the outcome of the election.

It struck out as incompetent, all the additional proof of evidence as well as statements on oath of some of the witnesses that testified for the petitioners.

According to the tribunal, the law expressly provided that an election petition must be filed not later than 21 days after the result of an election was declared.

The tribunal said such a petition must at the time it was filed, be accompanied with written statements of all the intended witnesses.

The tribunal held that the decision of Sylva and his party to file their additional proof of evidence and statement on oath of witnesses, long after they had filed the petition, was “tantamount to a surreptitious attempt to amend the case of the petitioners.”

Also, the tribunal dismissed the allegation that the deputy governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, tendered forged university degree certificate and NYSC exemption certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification to contest the election.

The court held that the allegation was a pre-election matter that ought to be litigated before the Federal High Court, adding that the matter had become statute barred since the petitioners failed to challenge the genuineness of the certificates, 14 days after it was submitted to INEC.

Likewise, the tribunal said whereas Sylva and his party prayed to declare that they were the valid winners of the governorship election, they equally applied for the same election to be declared invalid.

It held that prayers of the petitioners were contradictory, adding that Sylva and APC did not tender any electoral material to show that any irregularity occurred during the election.

It held that the petitioners were unable to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on them by the law, stressing that they failed to show, polling units by polling units, the particulars of the non-compliance they alleged and how it substantially affected the outcome of the election.

In the Kogi case, the tribunal held that the SDP Ajaka failed to prove the allegations of over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 in the petition.

The panel, in a unanimous decision, held that all the witness evidence filed before it were incompetent and full of inconsistencies.

It also agreed with the submissions of the respondents that the allegations of forgery raised in the petition were pre-election matters, which ought to have been raised 14 days after the documents were submitted to INEC.

Kogi had on November 11, 2023, held its off-cycle election in which Ododo of the APC emerged winner beating his closest rival, Ajaka of the SDP with a wide margin.

Ajaka, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, had filed a petition before the tribunal, challenging Ododo’s victory.

The case, which commenced in December 202, came to its highest point on May 13 when SDP, Ajaka, APC, Ododo and INEC adopted their final written addresses, after which the tribunal reserved judgement in the petition.

INEC, Ododo and APC had prayed the tribunal to dismiss Ajaka and SDP’s petition in its entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.



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