According to reports coming in from multiple sources (including Punch and Vanguard Newspapers), The Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has nullified the election of Governor Duoye Diri.
Today Monday August 17, 2020, the Justice Mohammed Sirajo-led three-man panel ruled that the election was unlawful based on INEC’S exclusion of Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party and its candidate, King George, from the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election.
The tribunal also ordered that the Independent National Electoral Commission should conduct a bye-election within 90 days.
King George, candidate of the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), had asked the tribunal to cancel the election because he was excluded from the November 16, 2019 governorship poll.
With this ruling, the stage may now be set for the APC and the plaintiff to present fresh candidates for elections in the next 90 days. We expect that senior lawyers in Nigeria will start making statements soon to explain this judgement and what it means for the ruling party, APC.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) explained in their submission to the tribunal that it excluded ANDP from the elections because David Esinkuma (34-years old), the party’s initial deputy governorship candidate, did not meet the age requirement of 35 years to contest in elections. But the ANDP claimed that it duly submitted a replacement for Esinkuma within the allowed time frame, after INEC’s disqualification of Esinkuma.
You will recall that during the weekend, a three-man panel of the tribunal had dismissed three separate petitions challenging the election on the grounds of incompetence and lacking merit.
But today, Yunusa Musa, the judge who read the judgement, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election in Bayelsa within 90 days.
As is common in Nigeria, this case will likely be appealed at a higher court and all parties will spend more money on litigation until it gets to the final court. This is part of what makes running for office in Nigeria very expensive. Even if a winner wins election legitimately, he or she has to spend a lot of money on litigation sometimes up to the supreme court. Several pre-election and election disputes result into court cases and even the elected official is not able to concentrate on her work until all court cases end. Some of these cases can take up to 1 year.
It is our considered opinion that Nigerian senate and house of assembly must find ways to enact laws that will reduce this practice. Elections should be worn through votes and not through technicalities in court. Pre-election matters should be settled before elections. Only issues like violence during elections and rigging should be litigated after elections.
Similar events are already coming up in the forthcoming Edo elections. Both Pastor Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki have already been sued at the courts for different issues that may affect their ability to run government even after one of them must have won the elections. The lawyers will smile to the bank again, but the poor people suffer.
We at Liberating Nigeria call on religious leaders to rise up and support the masses to demand for the appropriate electoral reforms that will enhance our elections. Nigeria will flourish again.