The Court of Appeal Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, affirmed the election of Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State and set aside the judgement of the Bayelsa Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which nullified Diri’s election.
A five -member panel of justices of the court reversed the nullification of Diri’s election on the grounds that the petition filed by the Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party, (ANDP), which led to the nullification, was statute barred.
The panel, in a unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Obande Ogbunya, held that the majority judgement of the tribunal erred in law when it held that the petition of the ANDP was not statute barred.
The tribunal had in a two-to-one judgement on August 17 annulled the November 16, 2019 Governorship Election in Bayelsa on the grounds that the ANDP was excluded from the poll.
The tribunal had consequently ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.
Diri, however, approached the appellate court to set aside the majority judgment on the grounds that it was flawed.
The appellate court held that there was enough evidence to show that the case of the ANDP was statute barred, the party, having not filed its petition within 14 days as stipulated by law.
Ogbunya in the judgement, agreed with Diri, the appellant, that the case of the ANDP which ought to be filed within 14 days was filed five months after the cause of event.
On another grounds of appeal, Justice Ogbunya also agreed with the appellant that INEC was right in excluding the ANDP from the Nov. 16 governorship poll.
This was on grounds of disqualification of the ANDP’s deputy governorship candidate, who was said to be under age at the time of the election.
Justice Ogbunya held that on the whole, Diri’s case had merit and he subsequently affirmed his election as governor of Bayelsa.
He further set aside the majority judgement of the tribunal that nullified the November 16 governorship poll and ordered fresh elections.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Friday, applauded the judgement.
The party, in a statement by Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, its National Publicity Secretary, in Abuja, described the judgement as victory to the rule of law and the genuine will of the people of Bayelsa.
He stated: “The celebration that erupted in the state at the breaking of the news of the verdict is not only a testimony that indeed justice was upheld but also that Diri is indeed the choice of the people.”
Ologbondiyan said that like other PDP governors, Diri, indeed, hit the ground running in the task of developing Bayelsa, particularly in his outline of projects in key sectors, in spite of “the prevailing fiscal challenges”.
The party’s spokesperson said that the sectors included manufacturing, agriculture, oil and gas, power, road infrastructure and education, among others.
“Our party, therefore, urges Diri not to relent but continue in his commitment toward the good of all, in line with the manifesto of the PDP.
He also congratulated the people of Bayelsa for Diri’s victory at the Court of Appeal.