By Alex Enumah
The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Saturday dismissed three separate petitions challenging the emergence of Senator Duoye Diri as the governor of the state.
The three-man panel led by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, dismissed the petitions for lacking in merit as well as a waste of the court’s time.
The three petitions dismissed are that of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), United Congress Party (UCP) and Liberation Movement (LM).
The three petitioners had approached the tribunal to remove Governor Diri from office on account of having an unlawful running mate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The petitioners claimed that the Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, lied on oath in his form CF 001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the November 16, 2019 governorship election.
According to the petitioners, the Deputy Governor, Ewhrudjakpo, does not possess the necessary academic qualification for the position of governor.
In the petition filed by the LM and its governorship candidate, Mr. Vijah Opuama, they alleged that there were discrepancies in the name of the deputy governor on his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate.
They also alleged fraud in his Rivers State University of Technology degree certificate attached to his form CF 001.
The same arguments were made by both the AD, UCP and their governorship candidates, Onwei Tongo and Ibiene Stephen respectively.
However, the panel in its judgment in the three separate suits held that the petitions are incompetent as they amounted to an academic exercise.
Delivering judgment in the AD’s petition, Justice S. Owodunni held that the deputy governor is eminently qualified having fulfilled the provision of section 177 of the constitution.
He explained that the alleged discrepancy on Ewhrudjakpo’s certificate was an error that was corrected by the NYSC and was corroborated by the NYSC director, who gave evidence in the matter.
The panel further held that the petitioners also failed to prove their case having not called relevant witnesses.
He therefore dismissed the petition.
The panel gave similar reasons for the dismissal of the UCP and LM petitions.
In the case of the United Peoples Congress, the tribunal, while dismissing same held that the petition which raised some pre-election issues was filed outside the statutory period required by law and therefore statute barred.
Justice Yinusa Musa, who delivered the judgment of the tribunal, noted that: “The petition is statute barred having not been filed within the statutory period as required by section 285 (9) of the 1999 constitution (4th alteration) and therefore, the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition.
On the alleged non-qualification of the respondents to contest the election, Justice Musa held that: “None of the witnesses called by the petitioner proved the non-qualification of the 2nd and 3rd respondents.”
On the issue of alleged alteration on the National Youth Service (NYSC) exemption certificate of the deputy governor, the tribunal said: “The NYSC certificate is not a requirement to contest any election.”
On the grounds of alleged forgery of academic credentials, the tribunal held that “allegations of forgery is criminal in nature and must be proved beyond reasonable doubts and the petitioner has failed to discharge this burden”.
“The petitioner, who made the allegations, has failed to prove as required by law and the evidence of all the witnesses he called were neither here nor there.
“The petition lacked merit and is hereby dismissed with a cost of N200,0000 awarded in favour of each of the respondents,” Justice Musa held.