By Mike Tayese, Yenagoa, Jude Opara, John Onah, Gowon Emakpe, Abuja
The government House, Bayelsa state, was yesterday thrown into wide jubilation following the sacking of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governor-elect, David Lyon and his deputy, Degi Eremieyon by the Supreme Court, less than 24 hours to the scheduled swearing-in.
Out- going Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson joined a crowd of supporters to a victory dance at the Government House Yenagoa.
The jubilation continued in other parts of the state capital as well as. Some of the Local Government Areas as soon as news of the Supreme Court judgment filtered through.
The court nullified the election of the duo on ground of presentation of false qualifications by Eremieyon, who had earlier been issued certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Peoples Democratic Party in Bayelsa had filed a petition challenging the forged documents submitted by the APC deputy governor – elect, Senator Degi Eremieyon, which judgement was given in favour of APC but was challenged in the supreme court that finally nullified the election.
In his reaction, the out going Special Adviser to Governor Dickson on Public Affairs, Mr Daniel Alabrah, described the judgement as the work of God, which nobody saw it coming.
Alabrah advised Bayelsans to rally round themselves in spite of what happened because the state belongs to everyone.
All Progressives Congress (APC) has vowed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Diri Duoye, declared winner yesterday, through a Supreme Court ruling, would not be sworn-in as governor of Bayelsa state.
National chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, while reacting to the ruling, said Duoye did not meet the requirements of the Supreme Court.
Oshiomhole argued that the Supreme Court judgement had directed that the certificate of return should be issued to the candidate, who had the required spread in the election, aside from David Lyon, the ousted governor- elect.
According to him, there was no candidate in the election that met the requirement apart from Lyon, adding that the implication was that from today, there might be a constitutional crisis in Bayelsa, if there was no governor to be inaugurated.
Supreme Court yesterday, sacked the APC governor in the November 16 election, David Lyon, and his Deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo for wants of requisite qualifications.
A five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili nullified the election of Lyon on the grounds that his deputy, Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the election.
The apex court in the judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko consequently ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo and to immediately declare the party with the highest number of lawful votes and geographical spread winner.
With the judgment of the apex court, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Diri Duoye, who came second in the polls, is expected to be inaugurated as governor of the state.
Recall that the Appeal Court in Abuja had annulled the judgment of a Federal Hight Court disqualifying the deputy-governor-elect of the APC, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo from participating in the election, but Degi-Eremienyo promptly challenged the High Court verdict that barred him from taking part in the poll.
Justice Iyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had also on November 12 disqualified the lawmaker for allegedly supplying false information to the INEC as part of requirement for the governorship poll.
In the judgment, Justice Ekwo said “Senator Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in relation to his educational qualifications and went ahead to depose to an affidavit to correct the discrepancies. The judge held that all his documents bore different names”.
However, in a ruling, a three-man panel chaired by Justice Stephen Adah held that the High Court erred in law and in breach of the appellant’s right to a fair hearing.
According to him, the case, “which was brought under Section 36 of the Electoral Act was criminal in nature and the respondents in the case ought to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Senator Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his form C001 submitted to INEC as part of his qualifications to contest the election”.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who read the lead judgment of the apex court, made the orders after disqualifying the APC’s deputy governorship candidate, Degi-Eremienyo, as a candidate in the election.
The court upheld the November 12, 2019 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which had disqualified Degi-Eremienyo in the election for submitting forged certificates to INEC.
The court also ruled that Degi-Eremienyo’s disqualification had infected the joint ticket with which he and the governorship candidate, Lyon, ran for and won the November 16, 2019 election.
The Appellant Court had agreed with the former lawmaker that he was right to have submitted an affidavit sworn to court to prove that the names Adeyi-Eremienyo on his school-leaving certificate and Degi-Eremienyo on his GCE certificate all belonged to him.
Judgement, Victory for Democracy – PDP
Reacting to the judgement, the PDP described the sacking of David Lyon as Bayelsa state governor-elect, as victory for democracy.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi said the development was another confirmation of the fact that the judiciary remained the last hope of the common man indeed. He also applauded the judges for their courage in delivering the judgement.
“We want to salute the Justices for upholding the rule of law. They have demonstrated that there are still good judges in our country. We won the election and the learned justices have now proven that.
“We congratulate our governor-elect and we are looking forward to working with him in his quest to further consolidate on the legacies of the outgoing governor,” Odeyemi said.
We’ll Comply with Ruling – INEC
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would act on the judgment of the Supreme Court directing it to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief David Lyon, in Bayelsa state.
Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said INEC was yet to be served with a copy of the judgment as at press time.
“I am not sure the Commission has been served with the judgment of the Supreme Court yet. I will keep you posted”, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Oyekanmi said.
Also, in his reaction, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye, said the commission would check its record to see which party came second in the election with a view to issuing its candidate the Certificate of Return.
“We would do that when we get the judgement of the Supreme Court so that we would know clearly what the Supreme Court want us to do and we would carry it out”, he said.
The latest ruling has cut short the jubilation and preparations that were going on in the camp of Lyon who was said to had made every necessary arrangement for his swearing-in today.
Already, a public lecture, where Kaduna state Governor Nasir el-Rufai was expected to be a keynote speaker, was scheduled for Saturday.
Recall that Lyon had polled 352,552 to defeat his PDP opponent, Duoye Diri, who got 143,172 votes.
Lyon’s running mate, Degi-Eremienyo, was disqualified by the court as not fit to contest the election, but got injunctions to contest the poll, where the same Supreme Court, had last week, ruled that Lyon was the authentic candidate of the APC.
Atiku Congratulates Duoye
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate under PDP in the 2019 eletions, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has congratulated Senator Douye Diri over his victory at the Supreme Court.
Atiku in a statement said: “I am fully satisfied that he (Duoye) has what it takes to make Bayelsa the ‘glory of all lands’. His intellect, personality and character, are credits to Bayelsa and the PDP.
“I congratulate Senator Douye Diri and his running mate, Mr. Lawrence Ewhrujakpor. I also felicitate with the Peoples Democratic Party. The Lords Justices have given us another opportunity to show Nigerians that power belongs to the people, and we must make good use of this opportunity”.
Atiku also called on the judiciary to be consistent in its ruling, adding:”I urge the Supreme Court to show consistency in its judgments and find the resolve to always deliver just judgments no matter whose ox is gored. The people of Nigeria are behind the apex court in whatever they do to free themselves from the dominance of dictatorial forces”.