Bayelsa: INEC rejects APC's request, party says struggle continues

David Lyon and Diri

David Lyon and Douye Diri: Identity crisis of the latter's running mate ruined his ticket

David Lyon vs Douye Diri: INEC says no to APC’s request.

The Independent National Electoral Commission has ruled out the demand for a fresh governorship election in Bayelsa State by the All Progressives Congress.

INEC’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, on Sunday, said the commission had concluded its work on the Bayelsa State governorship poll on Friday when Certificate of Return was issued to Douye Diri.

One of the officials also told The Punch, “The APC is asking for what is not possible. The party should forget a fresh governorship election in Bayelsa State.”

The APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, had in a letter dated February 14, 2020, and addressed to the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, called for a fresh election in Bayelsa State.

The APC national chairman said the swearing-in of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Douye Diri, as the state governor was unconstitutional as he did not meet the mandatory constitutional requirements.

The party said although the Supreme Court nullified its candidate, David Lyon’s victory, it stated that Diri also failed to meet the mandatory requirements to become governor.

It said the court judgment did not void the votes of the APC in the November 16, 2019 governorship poll in Bayelsa State. It, therefore, said its votes must be reckoned with.

The APC had said, ‘‘We are aware that Section 179(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandatorily requires a candidate for an election to the office of governor of a state to have not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the state before the candidate can be deemed to have been duly elected as the governor of the state. This mandatory requirement was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the judgment under reference.”

According to the party, Bayelsa State has eight local government areas, hence the two-thirds of at least eight local government areas will be approximately six local government areas.

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The Supreme Court had on Thursday nullified the candidacy of Lyon and his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, on the grounds that Degi-Eremienyo presented false information about his educational qualifications in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC as a candidate for the 2019 election.

Justice Ejembi Ekwo, who read the lead judgment, had said Degi-Eremienyo’s disqualification on the basis of submitting false information to INEC had infected the joint ticket with which he and Lyon contested the election and emerged victoriously.

Shortly after the judgment was delivered, Oshiomhole had vowed that Diri would not be sworn in as the Bayelsa State governor because he did not meet the constitutional spread of votes in the governorship poll.

However, there are strong indications that the APC will be heading towards the Supreme Court this week to seek a review of the judgment annulling the victory of Lyon.

The PUNCH reported that the party’s National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala, was consulting with other lawyers within and outside the party as well as the party leadership to take a final decision.

Although the APC national legal adviser was non-committal when asked when the party was going to court, he said, “You will know when we go to court.”

However, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Nabena, said the dispute over the Bayelsa governorship election was “far from over.”

According to him, the position of the APC is well-articulated in the letter written to INEC by Oshiomhole, in which the party demanded a fresh election.

He said, “Like our national chairman said, we are a law-abiding party. That is why we wrote INEC even as we prepare to return to court. We still have confidence in the judicial process. The contention on the Bayelsa governorship poll is far from over.”